We’ve entered the second quarter 2020 and all bets are off. We just closed out a historically bad quarter by every measure. And while the market is moving, our personal lives are at a standstill. Of course, it could be worse for those of us who are well and outside of the healthcare sector. Somehow, quarantined and practicing social distancing, many of us find ourselves busier than ever and having time with family we haven't had in decades, if ever. Moreover, where would we be without all this amazing technology to keep our kids in school, keep our family and friends 'near' and permitting us to communicate with the market instantaneously? We can hear the groans now: yes, homeschooling is rough (I’ve got kids to prove it), the news is over the top and we are being bombarded by communications so strong that our ‘live meeting’ connections are sometimes failing us. So, as we seek balance personally, and contemplate long-term goals against short-term budgets professionally, what can we do? Here are four priorities you can implement now towards a better tomorrow:
Focus on Clients
This might seem obvious, yet in practice it is rarely implemented well. Managers often ask whether they should be communicating or not during times of market stress, and if so in what form. We remain steadfast in our belief that clients need, want and deserve communications from their managers and advisers. This group knows you; they have placed trust, confidence (and dollars!) with you, and they want to understand how these markets—these broad, deep and dynamic markets—are impacting their portfolios, and your management of them. The red symbols showing the S&P 500 gyrations are not representative (we hope) of the results you are achieving. While personal communications are always ideal, it is not realistic to make this happen in all cases, with sufficient frequency, and with the same effectiveness as the written word and planned, prepared comments. Consider the following to maximize your focus on clients:
A minimum of weekly communication to your client base, which can take the form of a simple, well laid out email, to update them. The update is not about the general market or how your office handled the transition to work from home, it is about your portfolio management—what is working, what isn’t, what are you seeing, what lies ahead, what adjustments are you looking at? Help them to understand; knowledge is power.
Further consider recording a video of your review of this data or scheduling live webinars for investors to ask questions (you can always limit to written questions v. open mic). Incidentally, is anyone else finding it fascinating to see the backgrounds of everyone's homes? Candidly, we are.
Find a variety of ways to use the same content to connect with various clients, consistently. In fact, now would be a great time to embark on a podcast or other more permanent explanation of your value-added. IRIS has its own program and a special in play right now. Why not take advantage of it while you have some downtime?
Your prospects may not have the bandwidth to best ‘hear’ your message right now, unless they were actively watching you prior to March and this happens to be an excellent time to take advantage of your particular offering(s). In addition, consider the agility of the prospect.
Your best near-term prospect in this environment is a decision maker who is familiar with you already and can make a decision relatively autonomously.
Regardless of whether you have a strong, active pipeline of agile prospects or not, what you can provide to your prospect base is value added market intelligence that is different from the mass communications served up by the media and largest players. Communicate about the nuances, the niches and the opportunities you see. Show the market how you are different and how connecting with you will make them wiser, wealthier investors. Add meaning to the market, not noise.
Quick; think of three things you always wanted to do as a business or with your team. What ‘issues’ immediately come up and what opportunities do you want to make a reality? Certain market participants will run for the hills, and others will use this time as an opportunity to innovate.
This innovation may take many forms, from a new strategy to a new marketing message to a new channel.
Is there something the team has talked about for some time that warrants more immediate attention given current market conditions? A project the organization has considered that will bring everyone together and reinforce the firm’s value proposition? A strategy that would be ideally launched in this environment? Perhaps taking on something new right now is not feasible, but it is the perfect time to engage the team.
At a minimum, schedule a brainstorming session with the team after market hours to open the dialogue about what your organization can do, or do differently. The dialogue alone will make a difference. We always have two choices in life; take the road towards positive engagement, hope and innovation every time.