Uncertainty fuels anxiety and in today’s world of volatile markets we contemplate the question – what level of communication is ‘right’ during difficult times?
I’ve worked with advisers across the spectrum, from those who are in the habit of vastly over-communicating, right through to advisers who operate purely on a reactive basis. Most of the financial planners I know have trained their clients to ‘ignore the noise’ and sensationalist headlines, understand that proper financial planning is for the long-term and their plans are built to weather these storms.
However, at times like this, given the current political landscape (we won’t mention the ‘B’ word) and market volatility, even the best trained clients are likely to wobble. So what can you do to allay their fears?
I did a quick straw poll of advisers and, as you might expect, those who have been proactively communicating over the past few months haven’t had to deal with the barrage of concerned phone calls faced by the reactive types. But, just how much is enough and what should you say?
It would appear that a thoughtful and well-targeted email once a week yields the best results. This approach lets your clients know you are there and on hand to help. An email in their inbox each week will keep you front of mind. Interestingly, several of the advisers I spoke to said readership of their regular emails has tailed off (possibly because their clients were comforted by earlier editions), but they continue to produce them each week for these very reasons.
What level of communication is ‘right’?
Every advice firm will differ. Detail-orientated clients need the minutiae, while those at the other end of the spectrum value the bigger picture.
The biggest mistake I’ve seen advisers make is to use a blanket approach, disregarding the communication preferences of their clients and sending ‘one-size-fits-all’ blast emails. Often, these advisers simply forward on material that has been created by their investment partners – typically written for a professional audience. No wonder clients feel they are missing the mark!
Finding a balance
The right balance comes through ‘mass personalisation’. That is, segmenting clients based on their concerns, needs and preferences, then issuing communications which are directly aligned to these. When I host Client Advisory Board meetings for advice firms, I often hear clients say, “I don’t read your quarterly updates/bulletins/newsletters because they don’t speak to me directly”.
Although mass personalisation can take time, particularly if you segment using several criteria, a great place to start is with a simple two-layer communication strategy. Never simply re-send third-party materials, unless of course they are completely relevant to the client (such as a portfolio update that relates to their specific investments). Instead, take time to read the providers’ content or listen to webinars and make notes to create two client communications: a high level note and another that captures the finer details.
Cornelian webinar on 24 January 2019
Cornelian Asset Managers is a prime example of a DFM with a strong focus on communication. The company provides a wide range of materials, updated monthly, as well as quarterly investment webinars. These offer insight into Cornelian’s latest views on the global economy and how their portfolios are positioned. An added benefit is that they are interactive, so you have the ability to ask their chief investment officer Hector Kilpatrick questions directly. Things brings the opportunity to create even more personalised communications to share with clients after the event.
Cornelian’s next webinar will take place at 10.30am on 24 January. Click here for further details. You’ll be glad you did.