The New Face Of Advisory

Leveraging Economic Uncertainty

How advisors can spark client engagement and build confidence

by Jesse Abercrombie

Jesse Abercrombie is an Edward Jones Financial Advisor and Principal serving Plano, Texas.

Being successful in our industry depends on many factors – not the least of which is a solid understanding of our clients’ financial goals. Such knowledge helps us keep our clients on track to meet those goals, not just during times of economic prosperity, but also in times of economic uncertainty. The current economic conditions we face – rising inflation, market volatility and high-profile bank failures – leave investors vulnerable to making emotional financial decisions. Our role as financial advisors is to serve as a trusted resource to help our clients navigate these tough times and achieve their financial goals.

While every investor – and every financial advisor – is unique, there are emerging trends that can help us better understand how to best serve clients in this environment. In a recent survey of 200 financial advisors, conducted by Edward Jones in partnership with Morning Consult, we uncovered enlightening and encouraging insights that reaffirm the value we bring to our clients. Key findings include:

Client Contact is Increasing

If you find yourself spending more time with clients during this time of economic uncertainty, you are not alone. A key finding from our research shows, as a result of the current economic climate, the majority of financial advisors are prioritizing client relationships through higher levels of engagement. More than three quarters of financial advisors (76%) surveyed have increased their engagement with clients. The vast majority of financial advisors (96%) communicate with clients at least monthly, with 42% of financial advisors meeting weekly.

Our firm has found a successful model in serving clients through deep personal relationships, combined with comprehensive planning and advice, while providing the flexibility and professional-development opportunities to successfully build practices in the communities advisors serve. We also are investing $1 billion in time-saving technology to better serve our clients.

This investment was critical during the pandemic, when our financial advisors could no longer meet with their clients face-to-face. Even as we return to “business as usual” and spend more time meeting face-to-face with clients, we continue to utilize the technological advancements – including virtual meetings with clients and online learning tools for financial advisors’ personal and professional development – to the benefit of our branch teams and the investors we serve.

In my practice, I’ve found nothing can replace the value of human interaction. Having a face-to-face interaction with a client, seeing their body language and laughing together builds deeper, more personalized relationships and allows you to better understand their values.

Our research reflects a similar desire among financial advisors across the country for face-to-face communication and a return to more direct personal interaction. Among those financial advisors surveyed, 38% chose in-person meetings as the most common way to communicate with clients. By contrast, only 24% chose email, 23% preferred phone calls and just 16% conducted virtual meetings.

Financial Advisors Help Create Financial Resilience

I'm confident many financial advisors are experiencing similar challenges as Millennials come of age. Student debt and inflation have greatly affected this generation. And the impact is being felt across income brackets...

This increased level of client engagement among financial advisors is only part of the story told through the survey. Equally compelling and encouraging to our industry were the findings regarding our impact as financial advisors on our clients’ financial resilience. Almost nine in 10 financial advisors (88%) believe most of their clients feel financially resilient, and the vast majority (95%) feel their clients have a high level of confidence in their own financial wellness. In fact, nearly a third of financial advisors (32%) report all of their clients feel financially resilient. These findings support research our firm conducted earlier this year (Jan. 6-8) with Morning Consult among a national sample of 2,202 adults. That survey indicates those who work with a financial advisor are more than twice as likely to feel very confident about their financial wellness than those who don’t work with a financial advisor (40% versus 18%, respectively).

In my own practice, I have found these survey results have reaffirmed my belief in the impact we as financial advisors can have on not just our clients’ financial wellbeing, but also their personal wellbeing. Our goal, as financial advisors at Edward Jones, is to help people who lack the information to establish or strengthen their financial wellness by providing the tools to improve financial education, confidence and resilience.

Opportunity in the Next Generation

While retirement may be decades away, it would seem the next generation would greatly benefit from the education and support financial advisors provide today. According to our research, financial advisors identified younger generations as most vulnerable to financial hardship, with Millennials identified as most vulnerable (43%), followed by Gen Z (36%), Gen X (17%) and Baby Boomers (4%).

I’m confident many financial advisors are experiencing similar challenges as Millennials come of age. Student debt and inflation have greatly affected this generation. And the impact is being felt across income brackets: our survey showed, financial advisors reported individuals with a household income HHI) of $101K-$200K to be twice as vulnerable to hardship than those with HHI under $50K (20%) and those with HHI of $51K-$100K (20%).

As financial advisors, we should be able to identify areas of vulnerability for our clients – including insufficient emergency savings or an incomplete plan to pay down debt – and develop tailored strategies to help them improve their overall financial wellness. Regardless of whether we’re experiencing economic challenges or enjoying relative economic prosperity, we should always be mindful of the important role we play in helping our clients prepare for the future and reach their economic goals.

I am fortunate to work for a firm that gives me the tools, the resources and the opportunity to build such deep, trusting relationships with my clients. I have been able to leverage the firm’s investment in technology infrastructure, digital initiatives and virtual enablement tools to serve my clients in new ways, as well as to reach new clients I otherwise might not have reached. I enjoy the support of my branch team, and I believe the firm’s flexibility in offering a multi-financial-advisor branch model will appeal to a broader array of financial advisors moving forward and serve a broader range of clients.

While we can’t control the world and markets around us, if we commit to building trusted relationships with our clients, we can help them successfully navigate uncertainty.