a flock of birds

In Times Of Uncertainty, We Become A Community

by Dan Atkinson

I’ve worked from home before every now and then from what I’ve jokingly called ‘the fortress of solitude,’ but nothing quite like this. I wonder how we will look back on these strange times. How will our clients feel when they sit back and reflect?

While I can’t answer with certainty,  I can share two things that have struck me from what I’ve experienced and seen others share.

Community Is King

Over the years we have been debating whether we are part of a profession or an industry. In these recent days I’d say we are becoming a community. Indeed, we are a community of communities.

We’ve had advisers offering help and support to the public who are seeing their worlds turned upside down. I don’t mean the impact of portfolio losses, but the loss of jobs, income, security and the life changes that accompany these. Measures implemented by our governments help, but there will be people who don’t qualify or slip between the cracks. Financial planners are well equipped to help people regroup and build a plan. We must keep doing this!

We’ve also had advisers supporting each other. The deep caring for individuals who have invested their trust in our advice is weighty. Having these conversations and being a rock of support repeatedly can be wearing. Business owners have the stress of implementing Business Continuity Plans, wondering about the future, how they will feed both their families and their employees’. I’ve seen advisers calling each other to unburden, sharing a beer over Zoom, and encouraging each other on social media. We can’t be together in person, but the sense of community is palpable.

Let’s take a moment to recognise those who are extending community. You know who they are – you know who you are. Thank you.

Caring Is Essential

If we do not care, then we really shouldn’t be in the financial planning business. Our clients cannot be a name on a screen or a number in a ledger. We are intimately acquainted with their dreams and fears.

Markets are scary and seeing the values in your portfolio fall is painful – no matter how well prepared you are. MiFID II means that we must push these changes (and the 10% falls) into our clients’ faces. When we use phrases like market correction, we fail to acknowledge the feelings that clients address.

If we treat these communications as merely an administrative exercise, we miss the point. If we merely talk about long term investing and ask them to hang in there is that really enough? No. This is a moment that we need to express the care, compassion – and dare I say it love – that we have for these people. Tim Maurer puts this well when he says, “Personal finance is more personal than it is finance.”

What To Do Now

Right now, in the midst of scary markets and a global pandemic, we have the opportunity (and duty) to extend care. How do we do this? Is it by presenting solutions – or is it by listening? Clients need to know that their feelings are not wrong and are not falling on deaf ears. We need to walk with them rather than become detached.

We need to give them context to interpret what they are hearing in the press (and reading on their valuations). How does this affect their long-term plan? Do they need to make an adjustment and if so, how much? Are there compromises that need to be discussed or priorities which now no longer have the same weight? If we have done our job well we will know which reference points to give and how best to interpret them.

The really interesting thing I have seen is advisers sharing that their clients have been asking how they are coping. Care is not a one-way street.

Let’s remember that we can’t easily untangle money and emotions. We can draw ourselves and our clients back to our purpose, priorities and plan. Listen. Acknowledge the very real concerns that our clients and colleagues have. Walk together, not apart.

Keep talking. Keep sharing. Keep caring. We might well walk out of this weary and bruised, but lets choose to walk together as a global community of caring financial planning professionals.

Dan Atkinson headshot
Courtesy of Dan Atkinson

Dan’s degree Music Technology degree helps him approach Financial Planning problems creatively. He is both a Chartered Financial Planner and a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society (PFS). Dan is an Accredited Paraplanner™ with CISI and is working towards the Certified Financial Planner™ certification. He is head of technical at EQ Investors and Chairman of the CISI Paraplanner Interest Group. Having won several awards in his field, Dan continues to work with CISI and other organisations to support others involved in this area of Financial Planning by writing articles, and hosting conferences and events. Outside of the office Dan is married to Hannah and has a young daughter who keeps him on his toes. He is also involved in his local Church in Hatfield. Follow him here.

The views expressed in this article are that of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Voyant.

 

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