The market's wild movements in the last few weeks have created stress and sleepless nights for both clients and advisors -- who are taking a more proactive approach to calm jittery clients unsure where to turn or how to invest in a rocky global economy, and uncertain about another possible recession.

"Clients have seen at least three major drops in the last 10 years," said Dave Hubbard, president of Exemplar Financial Network, an RIA, and regional director of FNIC, an independent broker-dealer with about 2,000 advisors. "They're nervous and tired of this ride, and the old approaches to clients just don't work anymore."

Here are remarks from four advisors:

Lewis J. Altfest, president of Altfest Personal Wealth Management, New York: "We're getting calls from concerned and panicked clients, and telling them to hold fast; if they're overweight in stocks, cut back, and those with little money in stocks to buy.

"We're saying the market is reacting to the potential for a recession. Before too long we're going to see whether that fear is a reality or not. As of the end of July, we think the economy wasn't in recession. As a firm we're looking for opportunities based on unjustified moves downward."

John Burke, president of Burke Financial Strategies in Iselin, N.J. "No question the stress is higher for clients and advisors, including myself. We are only 2½ years removed from that awful bear market of 2008. Both clients' and advisors' nerves are still frayed. It's tough and clients are calling every day.

"I just had a 46-minute conversation with a client of 25 years. Three months ago, when we weren't in this, hopefully only a correction, that call would have lasted five minutes.

"We're trying to encourage clients to stick to one strategy instead of being bullish on Monday and bearish on Tuesday. That strategy includes both stocks and bonds, and if it's a success through this cycle they will stick with it."

Dave Hubbard: "We've had calls about their portfolios, but nobody panicked or asked to have their investments sold. But because of the volatility we have discussed reallocating as much as a third of their portfolios to alternative investments not closely correlated to the markets.

"These include non-traded investments, such as pools of fixed income debt, real estate, and commodity futures.

"We're also recommending structured product offerings that have a guaranteed return of principal feature, and variable annuities with guaranteed income riders.

In addition, to soothing nerves, Hubbard said his firm has held "fireside chat" type of meetings with clients and followed up with conference calls.

Christopher J. Cordaro, CEO and chief investment officer of RegentAtlantic Capital LLC in Morristown, N.J.: "Our clients have been relatively calm. We are not fielding calls from clients wanting to jump out of the markets. This is a by-product of our communication with clients about what to expect going forward. We have been telling clients since early '09 this is going to be a slow-growth recovery. Any bump in the road is going to cause us to wobble because we don't have a lot of momentum behind us."

The memory of clients that sold out in early '09 still haunts me.I will not let clients make the same mistake.The best way to communicate this with a client is with a strong I-position with the word "I" not "we." It conveys a deeper meaning to the client. An I-position that I have found effective is 'I am concerned about your long-term financial well-being and do not want to see you make a decision that may feel good short term but will hurt you in the long term.'"  


-Bruce W. Fraser