Cicily Maton knew she needed to make herself as available as possible to clients during the market plunge in 2007. The Chicago fee-only firm she founded in 1987, Aequus Wealth Management Resources, stresses the role of emotions in money decisions, and she had to be sure her clients didn't feel alone with their fears.
So she began calling "Town Hall" meetings for her clients in her office. During the worst of the down market, 30 people would attend, with another 20 participating by phone. Over time, clients asked if they could bring other people along. Now the "Town Halls," which she still holds every four to six weeks, are one way Maton's firm introduces itself to prospective clients.
Here, some excerpts from a stimulating discussion:
"Every meeting coincidentally landed right after a major disaster, so it turned out to be impeccable timing. If people have a crisis, they will come. Clients love this. It helps them feel that communication is always open and Aequus has their best interests at heart at all times. It's part of our commitment to personalized service.
"When younger clients were experiencing fear and doubts, the older clients were able to reassure the younger ones. They'd say, 'This isn't new. We will get through this.' They would come up with strategies for one another. It's never difficult and always fun and surprising. Clients are so willing to share with one another.
"During the stock market drop, I would tell personal stories about ways to cut spending. It makes it more real and comforting for everyone. Marty Martin [a psychologist on her team] always talks about how to deal with the crisis emotionally. [During a stock market drop] he advises people to limit the number of times you look at your portfolio and to turn off the television or radio.
"Each meeting takes on its own personality. I let the clients direct how it's going to go. The topics have included passing on values to kids, "The New Normal," and in the first week of February we will hold a meeting on planning for the end of life.
"My motivation is to keep clients educated and informed. If you do that, clients will refer other clients."