Crisis communications:
what does good look like?

Communicating proactively with clients is the bedrock of good wealth management relationships at any time, but even more so during a crisis. Read on to get a sense of best practices today.

As we recently highlighted, many investors have felt left in the dark and – similar to what happened during the financial crisis – this dissatisfaction has become a real spur for change. Knowing that we represent the country’s leading wealth managers, we’ve had many enquiries about what good crisis communications should be. Here is our view of what good looks like in the space today.

Reaching out regularly

A lack of responsiveness is understandably a major bugbear for investors. News may well be bad, but this is no time to be “hiding under the desk” and our panel firms understand that perfectly.

“We are in daily contact with clients,” says David Esfandi, CEO of Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management. “Advisory clients have a direct line to their wealth manager at all times, so are able to pick up the phone or send an email for an update whenever they wish, in addition to the calls we are making to them.”

Inevitably this is a tough time for clients, and not just financially, and so the time any of us has saved in commuting has gone into talking to clients. It has been good to reassure them – and touching how many of them are as concerned about us as we are about them

Advisers being forced to work from home for the foreseeable future is certainly a novel situation, but James Horniman, Partner at James Hambro & Partners, emphasised how good advisers will be making the best of the situation. “Inevitably this is a tough time for clients, and not just financially, and so the time any of us has saved in commuting has gone into talking to clients. It has been good to reassure them – and touching how many of them are as concerned about us as we are about them.”

Multi-channel communications

Quite shockingly, clients of lesser wealth managers have been complaining to us that they haven’t received any communications bar letters telling their portfolios have dropped 10% in value. The picture elsewhere couldn’t be more different, with communications coming via a variety of channels, in addition to traditional telephone calls.

With everyone on “lockdown”, and clients juggling work and home life in trying circumstances, convenience has of course been front of mind. Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management has set up a “COVID-19 hub” which links to all its latest communications, as have many other firms on our panel of providers, such as Nedbank Private Wealth through their Insights site, which publishes regular content that is also sent out by relationship managers to clients by email.

The trend towards untethering advisers from the office has clearly paid dividends too, now that most of us are working from home. “We’ve had in place for some time the facilities for staff to work remotely, making the most of tools like video conferencing, screen-sharing and on-screen messaging,” says Horniman. “We’ve been turning that outwards now, to enhance our communications with clients themselves with this technology.”

The trend towards untethering advisers from the office has clearly paid dividends too, now that most of us are working from home

Innovation has been really strong, with firms keen to make use of mobile devices. Here, Nedbank Private Wealth is noteworthy for being the first private bank to implement Qwil Messenger – a secure instant messaging app which offers the immediacy clients are now accustomed to from their use of platforms like WhatsApp.

“Qwil Messenger removes a lot of friction from the client experience that was caused by working around the limitations of legacy channels such as email and telephony,” says Beckie Williams, Head of Client Propositions. “Clients are already familiar with social media chat applications, but Qwil Messenger brings better functionality, designed specifically for business use, and of course it is highly secure, which is very important to us and our clients.”

Light bulb

Top Tip

Everyone is doing their best during this incredibly difficult time, and we’ve had many calls from investors wondering if they’re asking too much and whether silence is normal. We should all be understanding certainly, particularly if illness is involved, but ask yourself if any neglect feels like the continuation of a theme. Get in touch as we’d be very happy to give an objective view about what good service looks like right now. 

Lee Goggin - Co-Founder

Lee Goggin

Co-Founder

Bringing out the “big guns”

One-on-one communications with advisers are obviously a great source of comfort, but the best wealth managers know that one of the draws to their model (as opposed to the IFA route) is broad and deep institutional expertise. As such, firms are giving access to top-level investment experts even more so than usual.

“We have put on conference calls for all clients hosted by myself and our Chief Investment Officer, Michel Perera,” Esfandi continues. “In these, we talk about the current situation and how it is affecting portfolios, explain the firm’s approach and take questions from clients in real time.”

Enhanced portfolio reporting

Wealth managers have been leveraging all manner of digital tools for a long time now, but the current crisis has brought these efforts even more to the fore. With the situation – and asset valuations – changing incredibly quickly, clients naturally want to be able to check in at their convenience and customise how their information is presented to suit their needs.

With the situation – and asset valuations – changing incredibly quickly, clients naturally want to be able to check in at their convenience and customise how their information is presented to suit their needs

“We recently announced the biggest spend the partnership has ever made in technology, rolling out greatly enhanced online reporting for clients’ portfolios,” says Horniman. “That was all in the pipeline long before this crisis, but we’re now particularly glad to have embarked on this project.”

How does your provider measure up?

This is just a very small sample of the ways in which leading wealth managers are pulling out the stops to keep their clients informed and reassured. Some firms are very tech-lead, while others are more traditional in their approach.

The wealth managers on our panel all have slightly different offerings and ways of working. Helping people get to a shortlist of good factual matches, so that they can then select the right style of firm for them is where we really add value. One thing that unites them all, however, is a commitment to top-notch client service. In this climate, that has never mattered more.

The wealth managers on our panel all have slightly different offerings and ways of working. Helping people get to a shortlist of good factual matches, so that they can then select the right style of firm for them is where we really add value

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like to know more about what industry-leading wealth management provision could do for you. Or, if you already have a clear idea of what you want, use this time while the world is “on pause” to start your search for a wealth manager.

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