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Trauma Strategies

The response to my “boomerang clients” article—where I talked about how delegated clients were calling the company principals/founders in times of trauma—was swift and varied.  Dave Welty of Avier Wealth Advisors in Seattle wondered how I knew so much about his own situation, and Norm Politziner of NJP Associates in Highland Park, NJ said that I had written his story. 

A number of advisors, off the record, said that they started off the pandemic feeling confident, but now, so many months in with no end in sight, they were starting to feel home-bound, overworked, overtaxed and discouraged.  And yet they realized that they needed to stay strong for their clients, who were going through the same challenges with much less understanding of the financial and economic circumstances.

And a very small number of advisors seem to be exhilarated by their enhanced client relationships.  “I decided to call all of our top 75 clients and then many more below that,” says Les Atchley, who practices in Coeur d’Alene, ID.  “I have not worked that hard since the early days, and it was just wonderful.  I laughed and cried with our clients.  I have become much closer to so many of our clients than ever before.  It was a tough two months,” he adds, “but I was well-rewarded for reaching out.”

Dan Danford, of the Family Investment Center in St. Joseph, MO said that the boomerang client phenomenon is a key reason why founders have so much ongoing value to their firms.  “Even in the scenario where most of the relationships are handled by others, many clients are counting on that founder for firm oversight and guidance—especially in tumultuous times,” he says.  “The founder retains responsibility far beyond what staffers usually see.”

Are there ways to mitigate the overwhelming amount of work involved in calling every client—or fielding phone calls from them if you don’t call?  Michelle Ash, managing partner with Paragon Wealth Strategies in Jacksonville, FL, went on EasyWebinar to create presentations every two weeks on the markets, and then on the CARES Act, and each time there was time for Q&A at the end via a chat function.  Roughly 200 people attended, and the presentations were recorded so clients could see them on the company website.  Clients were given 3-5 days notice before each webinar.

“This approach has been incredibly helpful to the issues your article addressed,” says Ash.  “Our clients have been extraordinarily appreciative, they’ve felt connected, they’re making referrals (!), and because early on we told them how busy this recession is keeping us, and that we’re working harder than ever on their behalf, they’ve been extraordinarily respectful of our time.”

She adds: “I’d encourage every advisor to embrace this opportunity with technology, and to group coach their clients.  We did it in live groups in person before the pandemic,” says Ash, “and it looks like moving it to digital is going to be the way we go forward.”

Did you hear her say that clients were sending referrals during this traumatic time?  Tom Murphy, who practices in Dallas, TX, wrote to say that his firm has gained six new clients during these uncertain times.  Michael Kitces recently wrote that he has seen clients flying in the doors of advisors, but I had assumed he was talking about XYPN advisors, and that the new clients were mostly younger folk who had never seen a serious market downturn.  But now I wonder.

Have any of you experienced a significant run of new business since, say, February when the markets started becoming super-choppy?  Have you been marketing to the audience of confused, frightened do-it-yourself investors who might appreciate a steady hand at the portfolio tiller?

Please let me know if you have any pandemic marketing secrets.  If I get some significant responses, I may write another e-column.