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How market volatility brought me new clients

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Market volatility has heightened investor anxiety and there’s little reason to think this will end soon. But volatile markets can be good news for advisors, giving us an opportunity to display our value to clients, remind them of our planning for them and look for ways to strengthen the relationship.

As the markets swung wildly in late January, my firm saw three new client referrals in a two-day span. Here’s how you can turn market volatility into a growth opportunity.

When I started acquiring other firms, I knew I needed to instill the client relationship philosophy I had cultivated for years, so it could be replicated by advisors across my practice.

The cornerstone of that philosophy rests in frequent correspondence, and our CRM system helps facilitate this by prompting our advisors to contact clients throughout the year. The touchpoints vary, from birthdays to account reviews, reporting and more, but the CRM ensures we are touching base with the right clients at the right times. Proactively identify these individuals early in the on-boarding process. Often times, the clients who are high-touch from the beginning, are more detail-oriented or have expressed greater concern around investing are the ones who need these calls. Recognizing these patterns and having these conversations at the right time can create stronger relationships.

We also publish weekly market commentaries, a great conversation starter on their own, that we can use as a business-builder by reviewing open rates, click-through percentages and sharing/forwarding data.

Clients will naturally want to hear from you when things go awry. We follow a clear five-step plan when checking in with clients about volatile markets:

  1. Know whom to call first. Certain clients watch the markets more closely or are prone to panic; you need to know who they are and reach out to them first. Our advisors strategically categorize clients within the CRM system, flagging the clients who show certain characteristics or who have expressed an interest in this type of correspondence. The advisors are responsible for ensuring their clients receive the right information at the right time, so leveraging tools and establishing systems is essential to success.
  2. Wait two to three days and take action if warranted. Even as you decide whom to contact first, wait a couple of days before doing so. Give the markets a chance to recover or for a clear pattern to emerge. Reaching out too soon could alarm some clients who were not yet worried. However, sometimes the markets are positioned for an extended decline; the period of December 5-7, 2018 is a prime example of this. You are at a fork in the road: some clients are comfortable maintaining course amid volatility, while others need to see action. I prefer to keep clients invested during volatile periods, but that approach isn’t appropriate for every client. Back in December, we sold off the riskier parts of one client’s portfolio because it helped put him at ease. Don’t fight the client when they’ve expressed their opinion and you will instantly strengthen the relationship.
  3. Drive the conversation. Take control and honestly and candidly offer an overview on where the markets are and what is causing the pullback whenever possible. However, sometimes, we simply don’t know what is causing the pullback. In those instances, it’s vital to be honest with your client. Explain the historical data and discuss what you feel is the logic behind the pull-back. Share the resources you’re using – like thought leadership from others in the industry – that reinforce your positioning and support that the unexplained pull-back is likely short-term in nature. This reassurance that other market experts share your views can be comforting.
  4. Remind clients of their plan. We create income plans for all clients, and when the market worries them, remind them of the plan and demonstrate how, long term, it is still on tracks with their goals despite the day-to-day volatility. This is where the deep familiarity with the client makes the difference. It is possible to take a more conservative approach with some clients than with others based on the individual’s risk appetite. While we want to stick with the plan, we would rather make small changes to take risk off the table. The ultimate goal is to get them to a successful retirement, regardless of how we get there.
  5. Follow up with clients. Check back three to four days after the first conversation to reassure the client and see if specific follow-up is needed.

Following a systematic plan across your advisor group is a key to success, and establishing a record of reliability solidifies the relationship. Serving as a trusted partner who your clients know will engage with them in times of need is the ultimate credibility booster. When referrals come, demonstrate how you add value. Sometimes this means providing a little free advice. One recent prospect had been advised by another professional to pay taxes quarterly, but upon review, I could see this wasn’t the best option for their lifestyle. I had a CPA to review their tax returns — free of charge — to determine a better approach.

When the markets are volatile, your clients will be having conversations with family and friends. If you have kept in touch and provided reassurance, the chances are they’ll mention you as a credible resource. You will remain top of mind among clients and key referral sources, like CPAs and attorneys, because of the cumulative effects of your efforts.

That’s the easiest way to ensure a consistent flow of referrals: do your job and do it well all of the time. Touch base with your clients; these touch points remind them of your value.

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