Natasja Hart, Head of Advice, GCI Wealth
It’s not like a pandemic wasn’t on the cards – but the extraordinarily severe response globally certainly took most of us by surprise. Without diminishing the impact of the disease on so many, for me and many others, lockdown turned out to be a strangely positive experience and certainly one that has caused me to rethink not only how I live my life but also how I fulfil my role as a financial advisor.
One way of summing up what I learned is contained in the phrase Take time to smell the roses. No commuting, fewer work meetings at work and less administration generally gave me a greater appreciation of the fact that we spend too much of our time on the inessentials. Usually, we are so busy doing stuff – that we don’t give ourselves the time to decide whether what we are doing is actually worthwhile.
As far as my career as a financial advisor goes, this tumultuous year taught me several lessons and reminded me of a few things.
The first of these is the importance of the client relationship. On a practical level, the fact that I had more time on my hands meant I could spend more time talking to my clients, even though it was on a digital platform. I came to realise that this was a particularly important thing to be doing during a period of such uncertainty and confusion.
Connecting with my clients more frequently over this period made it easier for them to stick to the financial plans that we had crafted together. It is always worthwhile to remind them their plans were based on sound fundamentals—but, emotionally, they needed the space to talk through their concerns.
A more general lesson to emerge out of that was the importance of emotions in financial planning. Many of us tend to focus on the technical aspects of what we do, but financial plans have people behind them. Engaging with clients on an emotional level can have a number of positive benefits, not the least of which is that they are more likely to remain committed to the plan.
Certainly, my experience with my clients clearly demonstrated that clients who had a financial advisor were just better positioned to weather the financial storms created by the lockdowns. That showed me just how important the work we do is: financial advisors can play an important role in helping clients to put themselves on course to achieving financial stability and to keep focused on that goal.
In short, we have an important job to do, and we need to do it well. We need to arrange our professional lives in such a way that we can focus on where we are genuinely adding value. You could say that the virus re-energised my passion for our industry!
Another thing I noticed about both myself and my clients: lockdown has changed spending habits quite considerably. Petrol expenses are undoubtedly down and, in addition, we simply haven’t been shopping as much – and we realise how much of what we bought was simply not necessary. This is an opportunity to engage with clients, and help them change spending habits permanently to speed up their journey to financial stability.
If I had to sum things up, I would say that these lessons have shown me how powerful the Trust Equation is. As financial advisors, we can only maximise the value we add for our clients if they trust us, and intimacy is an integral part of the Trust Equation.
Professionally, I’ll be spending more time on the things that matter and, yes; I’ll also be stopping to smell the roses more frequently as well.
About GCI – GCI is a boutique financial planning and investment group, whose mission is to grow and preserve clients’ wealth, ensuring a safe and secure retirement. www.gci.co.za