Coping With COVID

The pandemic created a nightmarish environment for advisors, who must cope with the human and financial toll on their clients. But a few farsighted practitioners are seizing the changes forced upon them to improve the way they serve their clients and manage their teams.

Everybody has their own story to tell. I’ve been collecting the accounts of advisors and firms as they cope with the pandemic, reporting some of the more interesting or informative ones in the form of impromptu columns for my Inside Information audience.

There was, for example, the evening trivia contest scheduled for 60 of Redtail’s staff members, all of them on Zoom. They used the Kahoot app for online testing to post the questions and record everybody’s answers and response times. The goal was to keep everybody in touch socially at a time when there could be no water cooler conversations.

Or Mark Newfield’s letter to clients, comparing the pandemic, economically, to the ecological benefits of a forest fire.

Facet Wealth is scheduling virtual happy hours for staff in Zoom groups of six, with the invitations randomly generated.

Rick Kahler has developed a psychological Jujutsu conversation for panicking clients who want to retreat to cash during market downturns, which pulls them instantly out of a lizard-brain shut-down to a more cognitive response. Many advisors are becoming acquainted not only with video conferencing but also video recordings, and their geographic radius for clients has expanded from 50 miles in any direction to (face-to-screen) on any continent on the planet (except, maybe, Antarctica). Some advisors have found a way to generate more referrals and new clients, more easily, than they ever have before.

Recently, I was able to hear a story that encompasses the broad spectrum of challenges that large and mid-sized firms are facing, when I talked with Brian Martin, managing director of operations and wealth management at Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina, MN. “We’ve been reading in the industry publications where some people are saying there is nothing to the transition,” he says, “and others are saying that this is a five-alarm fire and there aren’t enough hours in the day. In our case, getting our staff to be functional at home was relatively easy. That was almost like table stakes.”