The well-known TV show “Mad Men” has a scene in which the protagonist, Don Draper, is being flown to a business meeting on a rough winter’s day. The amateur pilot, Draper’s colleague, remains focused while the plane climbs slowly through dreary rain and gusting wind. Draper’s face screams terror as he slowly becomes more and more concerned about his friend’s ability to safely navigate the blizzard.
The pilot keeps repeating, “Just a couple more minutes.” Just as Draper starts giving up on survival, the plane suddenly breaks through the clouds and instantly the plane calms. The noise stops and the rain disappears. Through the windows, it looks like a perfect summer’s day.
Experienced pilots know that whatever the weather holds below the clouds, once you’re above the clouds there will be blissful sunshine.The trick is to stay calm until you break clear.
Financial storms: they’re never far away
Successful long-term investors also need to breach the “clouds” in order to be successful and beat the odds. We know that most investors underperform the markets, as well as the actual investment funds they are invested in. Financial storms come in many forms, and the next one is never too far away. We find ourselves in one of these storms right now. A combination of rising inflation, a stock market decline and recession fears means it may even be the “perfect storm”. What are you doing to help your clients rise above the proverbial clouds?
The field of behavioural financial advice (in essence the study of how to help clients achieve better outcomes) is only a few decades young, with much advancement still to come. While good investment behaviour is “easier said than done”, I have found the following three techniques helpful in helping clients to manage the storms that cross their paths.
Flying blind is not likely to end well, for a pilot or an investor. Helping clients understand how markets have performed before, how cycles come and go, and what price they need to pay for inflation-beating long-term returns is crucial. This will help to set realistic expectations, prepare them for what is to come, and give them some reassurance that what they are going through has been seen before. You want them to know the language of investing, and so much of this comes down to understanding the rhythms of market cycles. As we know, this time is not different.
Ask better questions.
For those of us who are technically minded, most of our time would be better spent if we focused on getting clients to ask themselves better questions. So often they are caught up in detailed tactical considerations when what they need is to focus on longer-term strategic challenges. Asking a good question helps them to slow down, zoom out and gain perspective.They are likely to know the answer better than you do, but by asking the question you get the credit and gain more of their trust. Everyone values a wise and caring thinking partner.
There are endless lists of insightful questions that financial advisers can ask. Work through these, but more importantly listen carefully with curiosity. If you do this, the next question to ask is likely to come naturally.
In its simplest form, this is nothing more than being a caring voice saying, “You can do this”. Like the trainer at the gym or a loved one next to the race track, remind them that they are on the right track and have what it takes to make the handful of difficult decisions it takes to have a decades-long retirement filled with meaning and independence. A few words of assurance may be all they need.
This is why we’re here
It is easy to wish away the difficult market seasons, but that is after all why our services are valued.This is our real job and my challenge to you is to embrace it. Let’s not be found wanting when it matters most.
Continue to give your clients the unvarnished truth about the investment markets, nothing more and nothing less. Our battle cry remains: “Stick to the plan!” Financial plans and financial futures are destroyed below the clouds. How many more client families can you get to live their financial lives above the clouds?
If you’re interested in developing the human side of your advice and want to mingle with others on the same journey, join us in Cape Town on 13 October 2022 for the fourth Humans Under Management South Africa Conference. I hope to see you there! Get your tickets at www.humansundermanagement.com