If there’s ever a time when financial advisors get to stress-test their client communication skills, it’s when the Dow plummets more than 7%, triggering a stock market shut down.

Trading resumed after that happened today, but where the coronavirus will take investors and advisors next is an unfolding story. So far, U.S. authorities have reported a total of 500 cases of the virus, with 22 fatalities.

While the disease’s unpredictable nature may make communicating with nervous clients challenging, advisors told Financial Advisor they have been quick to calm client concerns and tried to keep things positive.

“This is an opportunity for us, with the markets being as volatile as they are, to tell clients we are harvesting losses in taxable accounts and rebalancing portfolios,” said Ian Harvey, an advisor with Bridgewater Advisor LLC in New York City. The firm manages $1.2. billion in mutual funds and ETFs for high-net-worth individuals with portfolios north of $2 million.

“A handful of clients have called the office and we have sent one communication about the virus,” he added. “But we are strategic portfolio managers and are not making tactical decisions based on this virus or any other single event. We work to capture long-term growth and that’s what we communicated.”

At Left Brain Wealth Management in Naperville, Ill., Freddy Garcia, president of investments, said he spent last week drilling down into each stock position the firm holds in its 31-stock portfolio in order to clearly communicate the firm’s strategy in the wake of the selloff. “As the breakout of the coronavirus hit the markets swiftly in a negative way, we revisited every position we own for clients,” he said.

That led Garcia to sell the firm’s position in Carnival Cruise Line, which he has discussed with some clients. “We made that change and sold off a position in Carnival that we felt would have taken a lot longer to recover,” Garcia said.

In contrast, he strategically held onto Boeing, a stock he uses as a value play and which a number of clients asked about. Despite it being an aviation stock, it’s near-monopoly position as a publicly-traded plane builder should mean it loses less value and rebounds more quickly, Garcia says.

Smart advisors should use market disruptions to leverage effective communication that elaborates on the services and benefits clients are receiving, said Marie Swift, founder and CEO of Impact Communications.

“Times of fear and uncertainty—like we are seeing now—provide advisors with a great opportunity to underscore their value,” she said. “Most clients do not really understand what the advisor does on a day-to-day basis, so being in touch now can help reassure them that you are on top of things. Communicating with authority and a sense of calm is essential right now."

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