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How COVID Has Changed How We Communicate

COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives from how we work to how we socialize and everything in between. We asked three of our Private Wealth Advisors, ilan Handelsman, Sandra Mews and Ian Ardill, the following questions to better understand the impact COVID has had on how they communicate and do business with their clients:

  • How has communication with your clients changed?

    Ian Ardill:
    “Communication is always key. So when you can’t meet in person, it becomes more important than ever before. I would rather be guilty of over communicating than under communicating. Often people receive communications on things they could buy; instead, I aim to focus on communicating value by keeping people informed on financial matters that may affect them – regardless of what products and services they may be using with me.  If someone truly feels informed and confident with information, they then can have confidence in making their own financial decisions.  When a client is confident about the decisions they are making, there is no greater place to be as an advisor.”
    Sandra Mews:
    “Communication has been via telephone, zoom and email completely, and we have now installed a business text line as well. We will use this going forward for appointment reminders, booking or urgent action required. We have found that clients appreciate having the option to communicate by text.”
    ilan Handelsman:
    “Communication hasn’t really changed that much for me. I was already using Zoom and a phone for many of my meetings. There are two significant changes that I can talk about here. First, when COVID started I was having to explain to people how to use zoom. It has been weeks since I’ve had to explain to somebody how to download zoom or get on a call. The other change is that I find it more exhausting being in video meetings for most of the day compared to pre-COVID times when I was able to get up and move around and go to meetings. I’m putting in small breaks between meetings, trying to move around my desk and going from sit to stand with the help of a timer.”

  • What can clients expect when meeting virtually instead of in person?

    Ian Ardill:
    “When it comes to online meetings, my hope is that outside of them providing their own coffee, their experience is of the same level of quality. Enjoyable, professional and on point.”
    Sandra Mews:
    “The virtual meeting is not that much different – instead of looking at a board room screen I am sharing my screen with them as I present. I like the virtual meeting; there are generally no delays due to traffic, weather and if they somehow forget, I call them and they just log on then.”
    ilan Handelsman:
    “Virtual meetings work very smoothly. I take a bit of time at the beginning to make sure the people I’m meeting with are using zoom well. For example I make sure they’re in gallery view. I also explain to them that they can stay muted and use the space bar to temporarily unmute. I start each meeting with a casual tone and a fun anecdote (often with a picture) or story to share. This just helps keep it real and normal-ish. Other than that, I ensure that I’m dressed as I would be for an in-person meeting and I keep my tone professional.”

  • Why is it important to work with an advisor during a pandemic?

    Ian Ardill:
    “This pandemic has brought unique financial challenges and opportunities to every one of the families I work with. I believe the key is to not get emotional. Emotion can play into the “sell low” and “buy high” mentality. Having a second sobor thought, and a second set of competent eyes on your investment decisions can often be grounding and help prevent short-sighted decisions.  This being said, given that money is deeply personal, a high-quality advisor can adapt to the client’s specific needs and match them with the best investment solutions for them.
    Sandra Mews:
    “There is no doubt in my mind, as this pandemic lingers, that clients have become more on edge and as such, an advisor can help them now more than ever. It could be the restrictions placed upon them, being cooped up with their spouse/ kids, lack of work or with essential services, too much work… it all equals more stress for most. Therefore most people need to be reminded about their original goals and to stay the course, or make minor adjustments. Sometimes an advisor is that sounding board for other non-financial issues that affect financial goals – many people worry about their adult kids without jobs and that affects them now financially as well.”
    ilan Handelsman:
    “For most Canadians, working with an investment advisor has several benefits. This is the case for non-pandemic times and pandemic times alike. Most people either don’t think about investments on a daily basis or don’t want to think about investments on a daily basis. They are engaged with their families, work, hobbies and other activities that consume them. What we do as investment advisors is immerse ourselves in the investment world so that we can ask questions to understand our client’s investment goals, objectives & and risk tolerance and then give salient advise that is specific to each individual / family. This saves our clients having to wade through excessive amounts of information and try to distill what is relevant themselves. During any time of increased economic uncertainty or when a clients goals and objectives shift a steady objective hand is useful. Even I use the advise of others for parts of my personal investing.”

  • What impact have you had on your clients during COVID-19?

    Ian Ardill:
    “Everyone’s business and personal financial situation has been impacted differently. It has been a privilege to be able to walk with each of our clients through this journey of making both exciting and sometimes difficult decisions about which financial levers to pull. One such example was a young family who had their world turned upside down when both spouses were put out of work in the spring.  One was temporarily laid off and the other one was permanently let go, due to a reorganization, after 15 years as an executive with the company. Thankfully, I was their first phone call.  We talked through their liquidity options and helped them ride the waves of the pandemic. As of this fall, both have been re-engaged – by previous and new employers, respectively. When a client knows someone is in their corner – walking with them not just in the good times, but also in the valleys – it makes all the difference.”
    Sandra Mews:
    “I am pleased that I have been there for my clients to absorb some of their frustrations and redirect to a plan of action. This year I am doing more financial plan adjustments. In particular, there have been clients that are lonely, stuck at home and subsequently online shopping. In one case, by revisiting the financial plan I was able to show this client how much more she is spending than her goal and the consequence of that activity. I feel we have provided a benchmark to help guide her. This is not an activity that generates revenue directly, but I feel creates good will.”
    ilan Handelsman:
    “In mid-March when the pandemic took it’s grip, my days were filled with personal conversations with clients. We didn’t talk about money or investments or RSPs or TFSAs. We talked about families, current events, things we are thankful for and challenges we were having or anticipating. I got to know many of my clients much better during this time. And many of them got to know me and my family better too. I stopped doing private placements and focused on cash and liquidity. It wasn’t until June when I started doing select private placements again, mostly in agriculture. My clients knew that they could call me anytime to discuss both investing and non-investing matters. This build trust.

  • What happens if a new client wants to work with you?

    Ian Ardill:
    “Technology can be our friend when it comes to navigating remote meetings and information sharing.  Today, I am working with more and more clients, across the country, with whom I have never met physically in the same room. It was only a few years ago when I would say to a client that it would be great to meet the first few times in person before doing things remotely. Today the digital meeting landscape is changing. Geography no longer limits meaningful interactions. We are using more and more resources to make the client experience less painful, more secure, faster and ultimately more enjoyable than ever before.”
    Sandra Mews:
    “We have had some referrals through the pandemic and have set up some new clients. I feel the process is now better as most new clients expect that they have to virtually complete questionnaires and sign digitally. Videos can streamline frequently asked questions, and we have used webinars more effectively with more success. It is possible that as many clients are home, they are more likely to engage in the webinar process now.”
    ilan Handelsman:
    “We have taken on several new clients during this socially distanced time. Thanks to technology this process is super slick. Meetings take place on Zoom. I use Calendly for easy time-finding and smooth booking. Raintree uses Equifax for ID verification and the brilliant part of this 2-step verification process is that there is no action required by the client or the advisor. When it comes to signing Raintree and issuer documents, this is all done digitally using Hello Sign. Smooth and easy.”