You Asked Us

During the coronavirus pandemic we invited advisors to ask us their most pressing questions about their practice. Here are some of their questions along with our response.

I have a prospect husband and wife. The husband came to see me and gave me their portfolios and said my wife looks after it. He gave his wife’s contact info to me. I have been in touch with her and she has promised to see me but I could not get a time or the date organised. Now this virus issue has come in the picture.

What 3 questions do I ask her to get her curious to set a meeting up with me

Greater knowledge of the wife/couple might affect the questions we present below but we’ll assume you don’t know them well and you’ve never met her. We also assume you get her on the phone to ask the questions we propose. Based on the information, you provided we offer the following questions to ask her.

You can begin by saying... "There’s no better way to really understand your goals than for us to meet and talk about what’s important to you."  then you can start the conversation and includes things like:

  1. Tell me a bit about yourself your family etc, I really like to get to know the people I work with on a personal level – I think it’s important to connect as people first to make sure our relationship works.
  2. What are your goals now and long range? What’s on your bucket list?
  3. What kind of relationship do you prefer – by that I mean, how often do you want to meet /where and how can I make sure you get the most out of our meetings.

How do I regain my sense of control during the COVID-19 crisis?

For sure this is a difficult time – with markets up one day, down the next and not being able to see clients in person, it is easy to see why you would feel less in control than you might have just a few weeks ago. First and foremost, we say, take care of yourself – eat healthy, exercise and create a routine for yourself – remember everyone is in the same situation, including your clients. Then take the time to review your clients – this could be your greatest opportunity to reach out to them (virtually) on a very human level – a simple “how are you, how is your family” – is all it takes – you don’t have to talk finances – but you can certainly show you care. Even if you only reach out to 3 or 4 clients a day – by helping your clients, you’ll feel gratitude and control like never before.

My clients have always been loyal to me but I get the feeling they are reconsidering their relationship with me because of the massive market losses they’ve experienced. What can I do?

Let’s start with what not to do – do not avoid connecting with them. And, don’t try to sell or justify your services. It can only make things worse.

Instead, pro-actively reach out to ask how they are coping – listen to their fears, be a friend and be honest. Find out about their social networks and who they rely on for support. Ask about how they are keeping busy and distracted.

You might consider putting on a virtual event – where they can hear from experts about a subject of interest to them and that others share – maybe it’s wine, or travel, or books.

Focus the financial conversation around their long-term plans and the things you both can control to get back on track. If they don’t have a financial plan, suggest creating one – if a couple is your client, make sure to get the woman engaged in this conversation. It’s a also good time to help educate your clients about achieving their goals.

I would love to have more couples and females as clients. Do I promote that I am the only female advisor at an IIROC firm in my province -- something most people don't know.

And how do I show prospects that I have soft skills, that I am goal based and that I have existing female clients that are very comfortable with me?

While it is wonderful that you are the only female Investment Advisor in your province, that fact alone may be secondary to showing “how” and “why” you work with clients.

A more successful tactic is to promote your understanding of the issues that women care about: personal relationships, life goals orientation, and that women like to work with you.

The best way to showcase your talents is to put them into practice: think in terms of writing and reusing articles/blogs on subjects that clients care about and that make you unique in your approach: understanding life goals is personal to each client; why it’s important to listen to both partners; working with clients is as much about education as it is about investing.

You could also get some of your happy clients to speak on your behalf through testimonials (using only their initials) from women/couples. Have them write about how you work with clients – for instance have them say “she really listens”, “she explains what I hold in ways I can understand”.

Then make sure you work it into the reasons why you became a financial advisor in the first place. Find the story that best describes – in human terms – “why” you approach financial advice the way you do: “Growing up, money was always an issue”. What is your very personal story?

Once you’ve written one or two blogs and testimonials, post them on your website or other suitable platforms.

What to do when a client starts to cry while you are talking to them?

That is a difficult question because much depends on the specific circumstances, how well you know the client and why the client might be crying.

However, we will assume that your client’s breakdown has to do with the pandemic and the resulting uncertainty as it relates to their financial future and physical well-being. And we assume the conversation is by phone or Skype.

First accept that crying is a natural reaction when people become overwhelmed, sad, or upset. Don’t get flustered, stay calm and …

  1. Listen -- first and foremost – and we say this in so many situations – listen! Do not be tempted to interrupt, let them cry and lead the conversation.
  2. Show Empathy – you don’t have to try to offer a solution but you can say show compassion and understanding. Saying something like, “I can tell this is very difficult for you right now,” goes a long way.
  3. Acknowledge their feeling – don’t trivialize their feelings by saying things like “this too will pass” rather let them vent and offer comments like “I can see why you are upset.”
  4. Offer support – if it is a situation you can do nothing about such as a death – can you offer practical support like driving someone somewhere. If it is a personal matter such as depression or family issues, you can you refer them gently to specialist in that field (a good reason to have a strong COI).
  5. Be there for them – if their fears have to do with their financial future, reassure them, offer to review their portfolio and be honest – that is really the best you can do. Under no circumstances can you or should you avoid the issue or try to gloss over it – refer back to #2.

Dealing with crying clients can be uncomfortable but, with a bit of empathy and respect, you can do a lot to calm them and cement your relationship in the process – not just now during this pandemic but any time a client cries.

How often and in what ways can I reach out to clients during the Pandemic?

How often and in what way you should reach out to clients at this time depends…on the client (think two people when serving a couple), on their circumstances (employed or not), on their well-being (are they worriers), and/or on their financial situation (have they lost a lot of money or are they in a good position).

For example, if your client worries a lot, is retired/unemployed at the moment, or has lost money in their portfolio, then calling them more often is probably a good idea. But you don’t have to talk markets or the state of their portfolio. Just ask “how are you”? Ask about how they keep busy and engaged. Inquire about their health, their kids, grand-kids. Ask if they need anything – groceries? errands? landscaper?

You know the client best, once a week might be OK for some while once a month may be too often for others. Listen carefully, their responses will help you gauge frequency.  However, realistically if you have 100 clients, calling each one once a month is very doable and shows you care. Remember to keep notes in your CRM so you can what you talked about.

Another good idea is to mix up your out-reach. It doesn’t always just have to be a call – especially now – be creative. You can send an email or do a Webex/Zoom/Skype call, if your client is familiar with these tools. You could also send them an article or a link to a video in line with their interests, be it food, theater, sports, kids, or funny pet videos. All these give you a human “touch-point” beyond finance.

And finally – you could go above and beyond by giving them your cell number or even your home number. If it works with your own life-style you can let them know they can call anytime – day or evening if they’ve got something on their minds.

All of these actions on your part let them know how important they are to you and that you want to be available for them – beyond the fees you earn on their portfolio. It’s the right thing to do right now.

I work on commission. When I’m asked how I get paid, what should I say that doesn’t sound too complicated but seems clear and reasonable?

Talking about how you get paid is tricky. You want it to be a positive discussion with your client rather than taking a defensive position.

You need four components to this discussion:

The price

  • If you charge a commission each time a client buys or sells a security, let them know exactly that and that the charge is a commission based on the amount of the order. For instance, if we buy something worth $10,000 – the charge will be 5% or $500. “My commitment to you is that when I recommend we buy or sell a security, I will let you know the commission being charged on that particular purchase or sale.”
  • But let’s say you charge a fee on the account, talk about the possible range – “we charge a percent on the amount of money we manage. From 1.00 to 2.00 percent– and clearly the services we provide come into the equation as well.”

The value the client gets

  • “for some clients, we handle everything from financial planning to their will and act as executor after their death.”

The context 

  • If you charge a commission, let the client know that the commission being charged is the same for every client.
  • If you charge a fee on the account, talk about how this fee compares with local investment counselors (1.00%) and mutual fund managers (2.00%).

In your case

  • talk about the specifics for this client. “With $750K, we would apply a 1.25% annual charge. That’s a little over $9K per year.”

You need to get very comfortable talking about each of these components. At the beginning, keep it short – clients will ask questions or make comments and you can elaborate from there.

A potential client asked me why a client recently left me. The question took me by surprise and I didn’t provide a very smooth answer. What’s the best way to explain why you lost a client?

Clients leave for any number of reasons – they move to a new location; they weren’t happy with the service; someone they know has solicited their business; they are consolidating their accounts and want to use just one person.

Be honest – “Jane and Bob left to work with the advisor who works with their parent”. No need to elaborate. You don’t want to be disclosing information about a previous client. So, if the prospect knows the client who left – suggest they discuss with them directly. Otherwise, you are not at liberty to give out too many details. If the conversation is without names “tell me more about the last client who left you”, then read the following…..

Show emotional intelligence – “Clients are people before they are investors. And, we can’t always be a good fit or vice versa.” That’s why you spend a great deal of time on making sure there’s good chemistry between the client you take on and the way you do business. And, even then, there are no guarantees. People will understand this approach and engage with you to make sure they either fit or don’t fit.

Show maturity – “if at any time, you want more communication or a different conversation, I hope I will have done all I can to make you feel comfortable talking to me about it”. Give people a way to resolve their issues. It will serve you well no matter what happens.


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