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Prospecting in a time of crisis

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Can financial advisors achieve net organic client growth in a time of crisis?

Yes, RIA executives say: by deftly handling inbound inquiries and judiciously strategizing outbound marketing and prospecting.

Unhappy wealth management clients from big banks are the source of many incoming calls to Cresset Asset Management, an RIA catering to high-net worth and ultra-high-net worth clients in Chicago, says co-chair Doug Regan.

“It’s a numbers game,” Regan says. “The banks just don’t have the staff to handle the number of clients they have.”

Wescott Financial Advisory Group is getting inbound traffic during the coronavirus crisis “from people who feel abandoned,” says Grant Rawdin, CEO of the Philadelphia-based firm. “Some aren’t getting serviced, some are upset over performance and others don’t have a financial plan.”

Keebeck Wealth Management in Chicago is also getting an unusually high volume of incoming calls that fall into three categories, says founder Bruce Lee.

Working from home in Chicago, Keebeck Wealth Management founder Bruce Lee has been fielding a higher-than-usual volume of calls.

“There are individuals who are too highly levered and are trying to figure out how to delever,” Lee says. “The crisis has also caused some who aren’t happy with their current advisor to think about changing advisors. And we’re also hearing from clients who have been sitting on the sidelines with cash or fixed income who want to discuss what to do now.”

Firms are handling these inbound calls in a variety of ways.

By being able to take care of current clients efficiently, Rawdin says, the firm can “take all comers” making inbound inquiries. Lee says he made sure to hire enough staff to handle the increased volume of calls. “We can double the size of our business without more hires,” he says.

All inquiries coming in to Buckingham Strategic Wealth in St. Louis must receive a response within an hour, maintaining a longstanding firm policy, says the firm’s chairman Justin Ferri.

Boulevard Family Wealth is offering prospects pro bono advice during the crisis.

In addition to launching a new website to handle questions about volatile markets during the coronavirus crisis, the RIA is also loosening restrictions on informational resources.

“We’re opening up access to prospects for the same information we’re providing to clients,” Ferri says. “That’s generating a lot of additional inquiries.”

In Los Angeles, Boulevard Family Wealth is taking that idea step further, offering prospects pro bono advice during the crisis.

“We’re calling people who have called us in the past,” says managing partner Matthew Celenza. “We’re asking them how they’re doing and if we can help. They’re glad to hear from us now and think they’ll remember us when the crisis is over.”

Boulevard is also using public relations, marketing and LinkedIn to attract new clients during the crisis, making sure the firm doesn’t appear as if it’s boasting, says Celenza. And Boulevard is issuing white papers on areas the firm specializes in, such as trusts and estates and insurance.

We’re hosting virtual happy hours to connect with centers of influence.
Justin Ferri, chairman, Buckingham Strategic Wealth

Most firms say they are reluctant to do cold calling during a time of crisis, especially one triggered by health concerns.

“We would not be reaching out to people who didn’t reach out to us first,” says Rawdin. “That would be in poor taste.”

Keebeck’s Lee agrees.

“This is a very personal period of time,” he says. “When it comes to prospecting, I don’t want to be ‘that guy.’”

In keeping with the spirit of the social distancing era, Buckingham is using Zoom to reach out to prospects and centers of influence such as estate planners, CPAs and attorneys.

“We’re hosting virtual happy hours to connect with centers of influence,” says Ferri. “It’s a way to connect and share ideas and best practices. And it’s resulted in some meaningful engagements.”

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