Pandemic Challenges Entrepreneurs Advisors Adapt to New Environment

Entrepreneurs in industries around the world are being challenged to adapt to new realities, and financial advisors are no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a global economic meltdown that continues to disrupt recent patterns of financial markets and long-standing business operations.

According to a recent Goldman Sachs survey of 1,500+ small business owners, only 51 percent expected their companies would be able to continue operating for more than three months. While the outlook for financial advisement firms is not that bleak, they still face the hurdles of social distancing and market volatility. Advisors Magazine asked several financial advisors how they applied and expanded their entrepreneurial skills to address the changing environment.

A number of entrepreneurial traits helped Valerie J. Bowman, RFC®, of Bowman Wealth Management in Los Angeles become successful. She said the pandemic has elevated two of those qualities: creativity and determination.

Like many advisors, Bowman faced obstacles to continue reaching clients and providing valuable information she previously delivered in face-to-face meetings within a professional office setting. As an RIA, Bowman said, she prefers to communicate in person – particularly for initial client meetings and educational seminars. However, COVID-19 altered that model.

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Laurel Wealth Management of Edina, Minnesota, uncovered advantages while working remotely and leveraging new channels of communication, according to Laura Kuntz, CPA/PFS, MBT, senior wealth manager.

“While we will stay a firm that deeply emphasizes knowing our clients and the personal touch, including in-person meetings,” Kuntz said, “I have learned how effective technology-enabled remote work can be. It is also positive for our society in terms of reducing traffic and carbon emissions, and improving team members’ quality of life through reduced commutes.”

She continued, “For many of our firm’s roles, a combination of in-office and remote work may offer a ‘beautiful balance’ where we are responsive to and connected with our clients, yet helping to reduce traffic, carbon emissions, and team member drive time. Even as I have started working again from our physical office, I’m moving in the direction of working remotely one day per week.”

While Laurel Wealth Management has maintained regular client interactions, the firm also added extra meetings when the pandemic began. These meetings review the strength of each client’s financial plan, plus the steps advisors are taking to decrease investment volatility and take advantage of buying opportunities. They also email clients when they change their portfolio, and keep them updated on new legislation and evolving tax opportunities.

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In recent communications, the firm emphasized its experience in helping clients through previous difficult bear markets, such as the “tech bust,” the 9/11 challenges of 2000-2002, and the toxic debt-fueled Great Recession of 2008-2009.

“This time is different,” Kuntz added. “But to quote Mark Twain, ‘History seldom repeats, but often rhymes’.”

Kelley Slaught, owner and CEO of California Wealth Advisors in Santa Barbara, said her firm has learned that its MASS Private Proprietary Process works as well during a pandemic as it does during more conventional markets.

kelly“As in any financial time, we continually address client’s questions and concerns,” Slaught said. “Since we hand pick investments for each client, and stay in touch with the CEOs and managers that run these programs, we like to keep our clients informed of all updates. We generally never have clients call us in panic mode.”

Slaught added, “We will come out of this with a much better awareness of how to best manage assets, keep in close contact with clients, and create an environment of comfort and trust.”

In 2020, communication has been more important than ever for Texas Legacy Wealth Management in San Antonio, according to Enzo T. Pellegrino, CFP® and president.

“The current economic and market environment has led to an increased level of concern and nervousness for many investors,” Pellegrino said. “We often see this during market volatility. But for many, the ongoing global pandemic extends beyond financial concerns to those for their physical health and well-being. We have taken our communication up a notch during this period of time to make sure that clients are hearing from us regularly via phone, email, and other methods.”

Although the current market volatility present opportunities, Pellegrino added, his firm believes it is just as important to prepare for bad times while things are going well. He said the firm has worked in recent years to align clients’ asset allocations with their goals, objectives, and risk tolerance – a strategy that is paying off for customers this year. He also quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”

The sun may not be shining yet, but advisors are working to keep clients on track until that day comes.



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