There is no doubt that preparing for client reviews can be challenging after the pandemic-induced market and economic melees, but there are very specific steps you can take to ensure far better results and more rational clients.

That’s according to Ken Haman, the managing director of Alliance Bernstein’s Advisor Institute, who said prudent advisors should begin by seeing the world through their clients’ eyes.

“Obviously I don’t need to remind you that things are very different right now,” Haman said in an Alliance Bernstein training video. “We’re living in what the sage calls interesting times. So the prudent advisor approaching the client review understands that these are not normal times.

“The client is going to be deeply affected by the context in which we’re living,” Haman went on. “Even though markets have been buoyant recently and volatility is moving in the right direction, clients are still going to be deeply affected by the things they see every day. Going to the grocery store can be a shocking experience with empty shelves. Watching television, listening to the radio. Shocking news stories that are designed to create strong emotions. Monitoring your social media. Lots of people, lots of commentary, lots of negativity.”

That makes it very likely the client will come into these client reviews during the second quarter with a high degree of distress. Prudent advisors need to keep this in mind as they prepare for “a different kind of review,” said Haman, who turned his experiences running a thriving psychotherapy practice in Washington, D.C., for 20 years into effective financial institution consulting before joining Alliance Bernstein in 2005.

The client review should be more than just a rush to review the accounts, numbers and data. Instead, it should be a time to thoughtfully reconnect with the client and to center him or her. Haman offers specific tips for helping ensure that the client is centered and rational, which will make an advisor’s job—and the review at hand—that much more productive. 

“I would recommend strongly,” he said, “that you begin the review by asking a few open-ended questions. ‘How are you doing? How’ve you been feeling lately?’ And just listen. Let the client speak for a few minutes.

“This will prime their brain to be using the language centers of the brain that are located in the neocortex.  This is the rational center for deliberative thought. This is the part of the brain that you’re going to be talking to as you provide some insights into the capital markets. So it’s helpful to prime the brain of the client to be in a more rational place than in an emotional place.”

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