The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has had many people looking at the things that matter to them, and wondering how they can protect them. This has led many to seek advice from specialists on a range of topics for the first time, including wealth management. Whether it’s the first or hundredth time of calling a wealth manager, the Coronavirus is causing a pause for thought that needs attention.
Tom Hodgson is a Senior Adviser Business Unit Leader at Clearwater Wealth Management, one of the largest practice’s within St. James’s Place Wealth Management. He specialises on advanced financial forecasting and helps clients formulate strong and adaptable plans for whatever market conditions may come in the future.
As well as looking after his own book of clients, Tom leads a team of eleven advisers. He sat down with us to discuss his thoughts on current events, as well as how wealth management firms need to look to the future to build lasting relationships.
What have people generally been calling you to discuss lately?
A wealth manager helps to give structure, clarity, and a longer term vision. It’s very tempting to make big short term decisions in times like this, which may not be right for everyone, and may actually take them further away from where they want to be.
We’ve had a lot of our long term clients calling us to get guidance on what the safest options are, and how this affects their overall goals.
Meanwhile, we’ve had a lot of calls from new clients who are thinking more about how they can look after their family in these times, if there’s something smarter they could be doing with their savings.
What is some general advice you give to these first time callers?
Firstly, everybody is better off with a financial plan to work from. But mapping that out, sticking to it, adapting to changes, and knowing how to invest in the meantime takes discipline and know-how.
Those first conversations look at what they really want to achieve in life, and what matters to them. When would they like to retire, what do they want for their family, where are they in 5-10 years? We make a real effort to understand that before we start looking at plans and products, it’s a crucial time in building the relationship.
Why is it important to build up those relationships for times like this?
We could have two almost identical calls come in, but for various reasons we may suggest two sets of completely different next steps. This could be due to their goals, their careers, what they value, or many other variables.
This is because we’ve spent time getting to really understand the individual. We have no crystal ball in our industry, and I would be wary of anyone giving guarantees, but the more of these nuances we know the more we can find the path that’s most likely to be right for them.
Looking to the future, who should the wealth management industry be targeting?
There’s a huge misconception that wealth management companies are only interested in hugely wealthy senior individuals, but in truth we also need to be building relationships with people far earlier in their journey.
Why is this important?
For them, the quicker you know what your financial goals are, the quicker you can start making productive steps towards them. For a young person early in their career, if they get into certain money management habits now, they become used to making small, regular decisions that make a huge difference in the long run.
This is far easier than trying to alter behaviour or tactics later in their career, and they’ve also had an extra decade or two of personal investment by then. We work with them to build a plan, to understand their vision, and get them to understand what steps we think will help them to get there.
What sort of steps are you taking to reach this younger audience?
How you reach a senior CEO and someone 30 years younger who has just had their first promotion is likely to be different, so we react to that. This could be looking at where they’re spending time online, and focussing our efforts there using LinkedIn or Facebook.
We also think about what challenges they are likely to be new to, such as working out what to do about the upcoming tax year. We’re also seeing a lot of people having to adapt their careers to operate from home in these difficult times, so have put out guidance around preparing for job interviews online.
If we get this right and earn their trust, these are people who will talk to their friends, families, and colleagues, and get them asking similar questions about planning their future.
How do wealth management companies need to be going above and beyond to better serve clients going forward?
There are no tricks or hidden secrets that will work for everyone, but working on delivering something bespoke is going to be important. It won’t just be money. What other related things can we help them look at? What questions can we help them ask? What situations can we prepare them for? It’s all connected, and the more we can help them make smarter decisions across the board the better the outcomes they’re likely to see.
Relationships and trust are of prime importance in the wealth management industry, and a crucial part of that is often the very first phone call a client makes to you. See how call tracking can be of use to wealth management companies here, and start a conversation with us if you’d like to find out more.
If you’d like to read more from our award-winning In Conversation With… series, please click here.