Covid-19, CFP® professionals and your clients

The Financial Planning Institute surveyed CFP® professionals to find out what’s happening on the ground.

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An impressive 761 CFP® professionals completed the online FPI survey conducted during April 2020 throughout Southern Africa. Most responses came from Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, but all nine provinces and several neighbouring countries were represented.

The survey underscores the FPI’s commitment to ensuring that South Africans have access to the services of competent financial planners who adhere to a professional code of ethics.

Making the most of the “new normal”

The survey provided concrete evidence that the financial planning industry was hit to some extent by the pandemic but not as hard as many other sectors of business. While the pandemic has changed how all CFP® professionals work, a heartwarming 56% of respondents said the pandemic would not change their long-term professional or personal goals.

“My business remains the same, I just have to be nimble and able to adjust the way I do it!” said one especially chipper respondent. Meanwhile, 19% of those surveyed said Covid-19 caused them to consider postponing their own planned retirement date and working longer.

One thing that unites all CFP® professionals is their conviction that the pandemic – and the associated economic impacts – has made the financial planning profession more important than ever.

Regarding the challenges presented by the pandemic, a full quarter of respondents listed establishing relationships with new clients as their primary concern while a further 21% stated planning for the upcoming economic recession as their biggest worry.

The responses underline the fact that financial planners who are open to technology – specifically digital marketing, cloud-based software and video conferencing technology – have found the fallout of the pandemic easier to manage.

As one respondent put it, “Change is inevitable. It is a great opportunity to see ‘crisis management plans’ in action and to see where we can improve on processes. Obviously, we do expect challenging times, but there will also be a lot of new possibilities.”

Advice amid the pandemic

Many readers will be wondering how they should react in the face of tumbling share prices and seesawing exchange rates. More than two-thirds of the 761 CFP® professionals who completed the survey say that their advice to clients is to “sit tight and wait until volatility decreases before making any major financial decisions”.

Now is the time to sit tight and wait until volatility decreases before making any major financial decisions.

Proving that financial planning is as much about people as it is about numbers, more than four-fifths of respondents expressed concern at their clients’ mounting stress levels.

Across the board, the five biggest client concerns are:
  • Unemployment or reduced income
  • Protecting assets
  • Managing debt
  • Liquidity/cashflow
  • Rent/mortgage payments.

“When everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve is disappearing before your eyes, it can be very tempting to try to take financial planning matters into your own hands,” says the FPI’s CEO, Lelané Bezuidenhout. “Clients should resist the temptation to do this and speak to their financial planner and if they do not have a planner, to visit www.letsplan.co.za to find an FPI professional member in their area.”

A huge responsibility awaits

One thing that unites all CFP® professionals is their conviction that the pandemic – and the associated economic impacts – has made the financial planning profession more important than ever. A whopping 91% of respondents agree that South Africans with a financial plan are more likely to make progress towards their goals, even during these uncertain times.

Lelané Bezuidenhout, CEO, FPI

As a result, 61% of financial planners believe that there will be a growing demand for financial advice delivered by a professional in the wake of Covid-19. Already, over a third of respondents have seen an increase in client queries, but this is set to grow exponentially as the public health crisis makes ways for an economic one.

“This is a tough time for all,” says Bezuidenhout, “but CFP® professionals around the country are not shying away from the challenge of improving the financial wellbeing of all South Africans and their families even during turbulent times like this.”

We wouldn’t want it any other way.