CORONAVIRUS, CLIENTS AND THE
ROLE OF A FINANCIAL ADVISOR

Rob Richardson

Rob Richardson, CIMA®
Senior Vice President
Practice Management Spokesperson

LOCATION: San Mateo, California, USA
TENURE: 1995

Finance, fashion, sports, schools, tourism, work—it seems as if every part of life has been affected by the coronavirus. For months, coronavirus (COVID-19) has slowly taken over media, the markets and evolved into a terrifying hydra stoking fears across the globe.

In response, various brands and businesses have been reaching out to inform customers how COVID-19 is affecting their operations and what they are doing to keep customers safe. A few have done a decent job to not overreach but focus on their own operations and their monitoring of the situation. As a frequent traveler, I’ve appreciated the airlines who’ve clearly articulated their concern, their actions and reiterated their commitment to customer safety. Those who made the effort will be remembered by me long after COVID-19 becomes a memory.

Those emails got me thinking about the role of advisors during a pandemic like this one. Coronavirus is breeding a unique situation of fear with some of your clients. Not only do they have to contend with recent market volatility, the threat of an infectious disease hangs like a fog over daily life. In concert, many clients—in particular the older ones—need their advisor to be a present, prepared voice of reason and rationale. Which raises the question—what should financial advisors be saying to clients? And what should advisors be doing themselves? If you haven’t already, consider the value of a client communication to quell their unease and give them helpful information.

A client communication should cover a few main things—what you and your team are doing to stay safe, available to clients and your ongoing plan for assessing the threat to both their portfolios and health. In addition, you may want to share some ways that clients can avoid becoming victims of some of the financial scams that are growing in number due to the coronavirus.

What’s your contingency plan?

At the time of this writing, many home offices have halted business travel, canceled internal and external events or restricted visitors and meetings through the end of the month. Many people are being encouraged to work remotely and utilize alternative means of communication over in-person interactions. Although many employers have begun to embrace flexible work arrangements, COVID-19 is pushing workers remote out of necessity.

Even if you are not working under these restrictions, it’s absolutely imperative that you begin to think about how you will run your business if you are displaced. How will you remain accessible, focused and active if you are unable to go into your office? Are you able to connect to the programs and platforms you need? Your job still needs to get done and clients need to have access to their advisor—especially during times of anxiety.

Be sure to inform clients how you can be reached now and how you will communicate with them if it changes. For clients who have review meetings in the next month or so, will they happen at your office, via videoconference or phone call? It’s important for clients to understand that you are staying focused on what matters most—achieving their long-term goals—and are committed to keeping them safe by being flexible in how you meet over the next month.

(And, while you are reviewing your business preparedness procedures, check your inventory of emergency supplies.)

What can you tell clients to keep them safe from scams?

Health advice should be dispensed by medical professionals and the financial advice and information should come from you. The rise of COVID-19 has also brought opportunist scammers looking to make a quick dollar off the fear and stress of people. Scammers are shameless in their tactics and have your clients, and their wallets, in their crosshairs. They could be touting a product that prevents or cures COVID-19, an “investment opportunity” in a product or simply pose as a government agency to steal (and then sell) personal information.

The FTC published a blog about the uptick in scammers leveraging COVID-19 to steal from fearful consumers. And, in partnership with the FDA, the two agencies are trying to crack down on the bogus products and false claims. But, they can only do so much. Help your clients to be able to spot and report potential scams and protect themselves against a plethora of scams and scammers. Some basic ideas would include:

• Don’t click on links from people or sources you don’t know, including ones that purport to be from government agencies
• Bookmark the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites and regularly check for COVID-19 updates
• If a claim, product, herb, drug or regimen sounds too good to be true, it probably is
• Report suspicious claims or fraud attempts to the FTC

The statistics indicate older people are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19—which can make a client feel desperate to find something that will protect them from this infectious disease. Likewise, older people tend to be targeted by scammers. The current environment creates a perfect storm of problems for some of your clients. Becoming aware of the practices of scammers can be hard to hear but they can proactively take steps to keep their information and money safe.

For many of us, COVID-19 was a blunt realization of what an infectious disease epidemic looks like in the age of the 24-hour news cycle and social media. Eventually, the diagnosis rates will start to plateau and then they’ll drop. And, while it may not happen on the same time frame, market volatility will eventually dissipate as well. Remind clients that this too shall pass and that staying the course, remaining focused and seeking out high-quality, reliable information will help them in the long run.

Let’s press on through the coming weeks, encouraging and invoking common sense in ourselves, our teams and our clients.

The views expressed in this article are only those of Rob Richardson and are not necessarily the views of Franklin Templeton and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations to invest in any security or adopt any investment strategy.

To stay up-to-date with the latest insights from across our firm, bookmark our Insights On Coronavirus hub.  

To help your clients stay invested and focused on their long-term goals, bookmark our Market Volatility Resources.

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