As the psychologist and performance coach to countless financial advisors, the pressures of being actively engaged in other people's lives can certainly take its toll on me. So at the end of every summer, I take my wife out to Montauk on Long Island, for the purpose of getting some much needed rest and relaxation. While sitting out on my balcony, I was able to think about the past 12 months and the behavioral changes I noticed in my clients during that time. Bear Stearns' collapse in March of 2008 was the beginning of the maelstrom. But while some advisors became more anxious about job security, many met the news with indifference. It wasn't until October and November that advisors began to face reality head on, when more Wall Street titans swooned and nearly collapsed and the industry that sustained them seemed to be coming apart.
Suddenly advisors were flooding into my office complaining about depression, burnout, and severe anxiety. Suddenly, advisors who had previously been confident and optimistic were afraid to call their clients and struggled to get out of bed in the morning to go to work. Bombarded by constant bad news, they felt helpless and sought reassurance. I helped them to think about the struggles that they had overcome in the past and to develop ways of taking action and moving ahead.
As the months of disappointment piled on and investors began firing some of their advisors or keeping their money in cash, the advisors I worked with began to feel apathetic about their jobs. They felt powerless to effect any positive change on investor sentiment, began second guessing their abilities to make sound decisions, and doubted the safety of the products and solutions that they had at their disposal. Some even feared their firms would not make it through the downturn. At this point, some clients began cutting back on their visits to me, coming every other week or not at all. In addition, they cut out other perceived luxuries like parking garages, expensive vacations, business development events, and country club memberships. They became locked in a cycle of fear, apathy and inaction.
An Action Plan
Now, as summer winds down, and the economy slowly gets back on its feet, it's time to really make sure you are back on track and make the best of the improving mood. Here are a few rules to work by:
Turn off that gas grill and get back to hustling for new business: Advisors with whom I work are making a comeback emotionally and financially, but they have changed, and for the better. They are mixing caution with optimism, revamping their marketing strategies, refocusing on new types of clients. Many are honing in on younger clients who have greater long-term potential.
You deserve a purple heart: Many advisors tell me that they “take pride from having survived this financial earthquake,” and that they “feel like they will be better advisors for having gone through this very important learning experience.” This is the right attitude. You have weathered an improbable and unprecedented storm. Having lived through it can only improve the way you conduct business in the future. Use your experience wisely.
Trust Your Hands: A veteran baseball player in my wooden bat league told me to “trust my hands” when I was in one of my worst batting slumps. It's time to get back out there again and trust your investment strategy, your firm, and your instincts. Get out from under your desks, be proactive, and take one step at a time. Too often, advisors believe they have a mountain to move all by themselves. This is an error of thought which may lead to paralysis. Break each action into pieces and be proud of working toward the completion of your goals, one at a time. Never forget what happened and how you overcame adversity. Remembering this will allow you to overcome any obstacle you face in the future.
Dr Alden Cass
is a New York City-based clinical psychologist and performance coach for Wall Street advisors, traders and bankers. For more info visit competitive-streak.com.