Another Bear Market? I am not a financial commentator or an economist. Yet, I have a hunch that the one-two punch of a global pandemic followed by a European ground war is going to keep markets subdued for a while. Idiots will say that financial advisors should have seen it coming. Yeah, right. None of us have the luxury of talking about such “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” scenarios.
Instead, here are five things you and your team can do now to get through what lies ahead.
Get up half an hour earlier – The alarm clock is your secret weapon. Use the extra time to make a few calls that would otherwise go unmade. Use it to learn about a new product or service that you have heard about but not had time to explore. Use it to clean out your email box before anyone even knows your awake.
Recommit to following up – Make a list of everyone you talk to today. Tomorrow morning go through it name by name, asking yourself “Do I need to do something to follow up with this person?” Then do it! Sloppiness in a bull market may be endearing in a Cary Grant kind of way. In a bear market, it will kill your business.
Take your clients’ losses more seriously than they take them themselves –Be proactive in acknowledging the pain by saying things like, “Dan, we both know that tech stocks have dropped. I am going through your portfolio every day looking for ways to mitigate the impact. I don’t have a perfect solution but I want you to know what I am up to. What are your thoughts here?” What do you think “Dan” would prefer?
A: To pick up a ringing phone and hear you say those words, or….
B: To sit in silence watching the market drop on his TV, wondering what you are doing in your basement office?
Consider returning to your office – I understand that there are different opinions on this, and that it may not be up to you. That being said, when the markets dropped two years ago clients were saying, “Look, I know that my portfolio is down. I’m just glad that you and your team are still working through this.” That team spirit and good will is not around today. Two things to consider:
- Many of our clients are back in their office. They are no longer impressed that we can use Zoom. I believe that clients actually have less respect for our time when we work from home – they act like they can get us whenever they want.
- Misery loves company. You need to spend face to face time with other practitioners going through the same challenges you are. You can’t feel a Wall Steet colleague’s hand on your shoulder through a cellphone.
Even if it is only for two or three days a week, bringing yourself and your team back to the office could help with focus, and provide a necessary break between home and work during a bad market cycle that could last for a while.
Finally – dress for work! I had a video conference with a conscientious young advisor earlier this week during his “business hours.” He was in a plaid flannel shirt and hadn’t shaved. I asked him about it, and he said, “Dude, my clients know that I am working at home. They don’t expect me to be in a coat and tie.” Really? I am not sure that’s a bet I would make.
How will they feel about his flannel shirt and stubble when their retirement savings have been cut in half (God forbid)?
How will YOU feel if one of your best clients ever says to you, “You are my financial advisor, in charge of the money I saved up for the past 30 years. Why don’t you even get dressed for work anymore?”
Prediction: If you are on your next Zoom call in a business suit, your clients will do nothing more than ask, “What are you so dressed up for?” When they do that, you can answer, “Because I am working for you, and this is what I wear when I work.”
You are not a miracle worker. Your clients will forgive you for temporary losses during a bear market. They will remember you forever if you keep these tips in mind when the bears are on the prowl.