How to Build Client Trust, Even in Times of Volatility


It’s no secret that trust is the lifeblood of any financial advisor’s business. Without it, you don’t get new clients or keep existing ones. The fact that a household chooses you demonstrates some measure of trust.

Still, a more accurate measure of trust emerges when market conditions become volatile. Financial advisors who fail to build trust proactively often struggle to retain clients during turbulent times. 

Your clients generally understand that the market is likely to go through dips, but volatility deals with the speed of market movements. It’s hard to set expectations for your clients, especially when we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future.

This is when good advisors can prove themselves to be great advisors. Advisors can demonstrate their true value and create long-term relationships by actively listening to and empathizing with their clients during uncertain times. When clients feel understood and heard by their advisors, they gain more confidence in their advisor’s abilities. Today, we are exploring a few key strategies you can leverage to help build trust with your clients during market volatility (without predicting the future).


Be a Listener First, an Expert Second

We won’t spend much time here – you likely already know this and agree – but it’s important to be reminded when your clients call you in a panic. Focus on being a good listener before you focus on answering well.

In the words of one anonymous quote, “Having a crystal ball doesn’t make clients feel understood.” The best answers may fall on unlistening ears when your clients feel panic. Instead, a client that feels understood and cared for is much more open to trusting your answer. Be intentional to make them feel heard before you jump to your answer.

One good strategy to implement here is to ask questions that help them understand their fears. Sometimes, your clients may just need to vent their worries, and your job is to help them identify a clear outcome they’re looking for. 

You can help them identify what clarifications they need in order to feel more at peace. Is it a knowledge gap? Is having a plan B? What are they fearful of and what would help them experience more peace?


The Big Picture Answers Most Questions

During market fluctuations, it’s crucial to help investors maintain perspective. Although recent declines in the Dow Jones Industrial Average have reached hundreds or even thousands of points, these large point moves become less significant when considered a percentage of the index price. Investors have different mindsets, particularly regarding unrealized losses. 

Some may be concerned about a 10% drop in stock, questioning the reasons behind the company’s declining value. On the other hand, some may view a 10% drop as an excellent opportunity to buy. Despite experiencing the same price movement, these two groups have contrasting perspectives based on how they interpret the price action. Assisting clients in maintaining perspective amid market volatility is crucial, mainly by providing context and helping them understand the significance of current market news.


Focus On Their Financial Plan, Not the Economy

In truth, clients are likely more concerned about their financial future than the global economy. While the two are obviously connected, it’s helpful to focus on the former. They want to know that you have planned for this scenario in their financial plan. 

Show clients that they are still on track toward their financial goals and that their asset allocation is appropriate. Focus on the positioning of clients’ portfolios during the review. Prior gains should have already been captured before volatility occurs. 

If clients feel there is too much risk, consider shedding volatile assets upon their request. However, educate clients about the long-term consequences of their actions. Selling a high-potential asset at its lowest price may feel good in the short term but can hinder long-term goals. 

While short-term opportunities may be tempting, they should not detract from the ultimate goals. Remain focused on the long-term plan.


It’s Not All On You – Bring In Other Voices

Clients appreciate advisors who can provide a well-rounded perspective. Remember, your primary value is not as a talking head on the news. It’s applying your expertise to their specific plans. Stay informed of market developments, economic indicators, and relevant news, and share this information with your clients. 

By referencing reputable sources, market commentaries, and expert opinions, you can enhance the depth and breadth of your advice.


Be Intentional with Your Empathy

“Empathy is important” isn’t groundbreaking advice for advisors, but it’s easier said than done during stressful times in the market. Those of us that remember market crashes remember the stress of fielding dozens of calls a day from panicked clients. 

When your clients are stressed about the markets, you’re likely feeling that weight even more. That’s why it’s all the more important to be intentional with your tone, especially in regard to empathy. 

This also goes far beyond how you talk to your clients. By truly practicing empathy, it can help you anticipate client needs and behaviors, especially during market downturns when emotions can drive irrational decisions. You can provide the necessary support and reassurance by putting yourself in your client’s shoes and objectively experiencing their emotions. Empathy enables you to support better and understand your client’s decision-making. 

Clients may react differently to market instability, with some making impulsive decisions and others reevaluating their values and goals. By empathizing with their perspectives, you can guide them toward sound financial choices and help them navigate the changing landscape. 


You Don’t Have to Ride Out Turbulence Alone Either

Your clients chose you to encourage and support them in reaching their goals, even through turbulence. You need an RIA that does the same for you.

At Wealth Plan Group, we offer turbulence-friendly tools like an outsourced investment management team with rapid rebalancing capabilities. We also offer market commentaries and other client-facing resources that you can use to proactively educate and clarify economic questions.

We also have developed an internal peer-2-peer advisor forum where you have access to the collective experience and insight of the WealthPlan advisor community. We meet on a regular basis to identify challenges and collaboratively identify what works. Just like your clients, you don’t have to go it alone.

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