What Should Advisers Focus On in a New Market Environment?

After the challenges of 2020’s volatile market, financial advisers should learn how to approach any future obstacles with their clients.

Financial advisers are continuing to navigate the challenges of providing counsel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since last February and March, advisers have shifted the way they deliver client advice and developed investment strategies to succeed during a volatile market—but now many fear inflation might loom ahead.

“Very few money managers have managed money during a rising inflation market,” explains Chris Blunt, CEO at F&G, an annuity and life insurance provider. “The playbook that everyone has run with in these past 40 years has been this secular decline in inflation.”

Advisers who provided sound investment strategies to their clients, practiced diversification and communicated clear goals found success in 2020, says Anthony Saglimbene, a global market strategist at Ameriprise Financial. “When markets went through that rapid period in February and March, if advisers were able to counsel their clients and get them focused on the longer-term goals and benefits of the stock market, then they were able to participate not only in the recovery, but in the initial gains that followed,” Saglimbene notes.

Fast forward to present day, and advisers are addressing the difficulties their clients are facing now, including lingering worries about a near-term recession caused by coronavirus concerns. Saglimbene urges advisers to emphasize the strength of the current economy to their clients, as well as underlying pieces of growth in their investments.

Advisers also must counsel their clients on how to adjust their portfolios despite the specter of inflation in the economy and teach them how asset prices react to that, Saglimbene says. “Advisers who are proactive today are likely getting out ahead of the curve over the course of the next three to six months,” he says.

Saglimbene says he foresees stronger growth within the next six to 18 months thanks to vaccination efforts and a return to pre-COVID-19 activities, which he believes will benefit corporate profits, economic growth and asset prices. “With the backdrop of more vaccines, greater return to regular activity and higher growth or profits, that has historically been a very good environment for asset prices,” he says.

Blunt recommends advisers re-evaluate their conversations with clients and re-examine any biases they might have. Checking these inherent biases will help advisers avoid restrictions and potential losses on investments, he says.

One common example of a natural bias an adviser might have is a hesitation to recommend guaranteed lifetime income products otherwise known as annuities. While annuity features can grow retirement savings portfolios and provide supplemental income in retirement, many are hesitant to offer these options due to their complexities and past fiduciary concerns.

“It’s a great product, but because it’s called an annuity, there are many who have that bias [against it],” Blunt says.

To combat such biases, he suggests that advisers try challenging their thinking on these products. He says they should seek out a devil’s advocate or ask whether their bias is based on facts or a gut feeling.

A third option, and possibly the simplest one, is to just ask the client what they want out of their retirement. Because many clients come to financial advisers for counsel and guidance, it may seem counterintuitive to seek options from the clients themselves. But asking questions helps both parties understand what their mission is while positioning the client to take action on their retirement.

“What does the client want in the end process? What are you trying to accomplish and what are you worried about?” Blunt asks. “Going that extra mile allows the clients to articulate what they’d like to get out of the relationship.”