During this crazy week marked by extreme market volatility, many advisors have ratcheted up the personal touch to ensure that clients don't get stressed out. "I think we earn our money in times like this more than when the market is up 15% to 20%," says Josh Itzoe, a principal at Greenspring Wealth Management in Towson, Md.
Itzoe says about 10 of his firm's 100 clients called during the week to express concern about the market and their portfolios. "That doesn't mean the other 90 aren't concerned, so we're getting out in front of it," Itzoe says. This morning, he and his partner, Patrick Collins, are hosting a conference call for their clients to talk about the state of the market, the firm's portfolio strategy, and where the market might go from here.
"We got some good feedback and expect a number of people to sit in on the call," Itzoe says.
Communication has been the keyword for many advisors. "We've just overcommunicated with clients during the past several months," says Scott Kays, founder of Kays Financial Advisory Corp. in Atlanta. "This week they got three emails from us as of Wednesday."
Kays says only a few of his clients were in panic mode and wanted out of the market, and maybe a few others wanted to move into a slightly more conservative allocation.
"We would love to tell clients you're making a bad mistake," Kays says. "But if they're right, you're asking for a lawsuit. We give them the benefit of our experience but always end the conversation with 'we'll do what you want us to do.'"
Andrew Samalin, president of Samalin Investment Counsel in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., began contacting clients and prospects at the beginning of the week.
"Monday we got in bright and early and sent an email letting everyone know it was going to be a rocky day," he says. "We told them that staff was available 24-7 and put in all our direct lines, spillover lines and home phone numbers."
They eventually contacted everyone, and Samalin says clients did not panic. In fact, he says, one prospect-someone who recently sold a business for $8 million-was so appreciative of the call that he handed Samalin $2 million of his assets.
Allocations were not changed, Samalin says, adding that some clients felt more comfortable moving from money markets into CDs.
Tom Orecchio, principal at Greenbaum and Orecchio in Old Tappan, N.J., says the current economic and market maelstrom is different from the prior meltdown that followed the bursting of the tech bubble. "People are feeling this all over--in their pocketbook because of inflation; in their portfolio; and unlike last time, in their home values," he says.
Orecchio says he has a half-dozen panicky clients who haven't experienced anything like this before. He says his advice to them is to let his firm do what it's charged to do: maintain a diversified portfolio and spot opportunistic rebalancing situations.
Sammy Grant, president of SG Financial Advisors in Sandy Springs, Ga., says he had only one client on the extreme end who wanted to go 100% into cash.
Grant says the firm has contacted all of its clients. "They realize it's a unique time and this is why we have a plan in place," he says, adding that he got calls from some clients with extra cash who asked if this is a good time to invest.
"That's an attitude I like to see," Grant says.
But Grant will be glad when the weekend officially begins. "It's been a stressful week," he says. "The stress has been more self-inflicted than from irate clients because we try to be proactive and it takes a lot of time to get in touch with every client while you're trying to keep up with breaking news."