Throughout my years of providing marketing and growth consulting services to not just financial advisors but also accountants and attorneys, I’ve found a baseline theme around these professionals’ approach to generating new clients: The majority continue to grow their practice through COIs, or “centers of influence,” which are, primarily, each other.
Second only after client referrals, introductions from centers of influence have credibility attached to them, which can help financial advisors, lawyers and accountants get in front of their target audience.
It also helps those clients who need these specialized services the most. Given the unique and historic concerns arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, that need has never been greater.
We recently conducted a survey of some of the nation’s top trust and estate, family and business lawyers, as well as accounting professionals, and asked them what they were hearing from their clients the most in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and what advice these clients seem to value the most.
Here are some major themes we found, broken down by specialty:
Business owners have been eager to discuss insurance coverage for business interruptions due to COVID-19.
David Gauntlett of Gauntlett & Associates recommends clients impacted by the disruption “pursue outside financing, including SBA loans, or consider Chapter 11 with its new streamlined version of higher limits.”
He also recommends his clients file pertinent insurance claims with a concurrent “fact investigation.”
“Keep abreast of legislation in various states attacking ‘virus’ exclusions,” meaning legislation that would limit insurance companies’ ability to deny claims based on the virus pandemic on the grounds that would go against public policy. He also said business owners should see if their insurance broker was liable for not recommending pandemic virus coverage, which has been available since the SARs epidemic.
Never have spouses (and ex-spouses) been under a more challenging test, given the lockdown, possibly lower household income, closed schools and maybe even unemployment. Many family lawyers are getting questions about how to handle custody and visitation concerns due to COVID-19, whether to comply with court orders, or how to ensure the other parent is providing a safe environment or adhering to homeschooling obligations with the children.
Melissa Wheeler Hoff of Johnson Attorneys Group recommends her clients to be proactive before issues arise and work with the other side cooperatively to ease stress for both parties. She also recommends using Zoom and other virtual tools to help mediate concerns, and not rely on email messages. “People should be compassionate and reach agreements to benefit themselves and their families. I am also pushing people who have the resources to reach out to mental health professionals right now to manage their stress and anxiety.”
Many estate planners have been receiving a barrage of calls from existing, new and prospective clients wanting to get their estate planning documents in place; such attorneys are trying to figure out how the documents can be properly executed under state laws given the current social distancing guidelines.
Melinda Merk of McCandlish & Lillard P.C. recommends individuals rushing to get estate documents in place do not use LegalZoom or otherwise try to create the documents on their own. “Take the time now to consult with an experienced trust and estate attorney to get your estate planning documents in place. Also, make sure your parents have done the same.”
Litigation and Investigation Support
Many attorneys have fielded concerns about remote working environments and data security from their clients. These include how to handle new federal legislation related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Others are worried about when they will hear back from the regulators regarding the audit or investigation or settlement offer in the works before the outbreak. “Are they really still working?” a client asked an attorney in our survey.
Giuseppe Franzella, a partner in the litigation practice of Lazer Aptheker Rosella & Yedid P.C., said many clients, including many business owners, are asking about the unforeseen issues around remote working.
“Working from home presents unique challenges, not the least of which is network security. Clients should ensure that remote computing protocols and virtual private networks are secure and safeguarded to prevent against potential unwanted access by a third party,” he said.
In our survey, many CPAs and attorneys also said they wished they had more communication from their financial advisors on what individuals can do with their investments and liquid assets right now to minimize the damage from volatile markets. Other investment-specific questions attorneys have been fielding of late have been around beneficiary designations and assistance with properly funding revocable trusts.
When we asked how they would grade their financial advisor partners on their communication and responsiveness during the turmoil, the answers were scattered across the board. Some lawyers and CPAs were pleased and grateful for the ongoing communication, while others were confused by where the advisor who had previously been “marketing” to them disappeared to. Consistency is key!
In times like this, overcommunication is important not just with your clients but also with those long-standing relationships you have developed with centers of influence. Make sure you have a regular email or newsletter blast ready with your daily or biweekly views, make sure you share case studies with those who rely on your expertise and make sure you are using social media platforms to post concerns from others. Because it is during these times that loyal relationships can be cemented for the long term—or completely destroyed.
Amy Parvaneh is the founder and CEO of Select Advisors Institute, an outsourced chief marketing officer solution to financial advisors, attorneys and CPAs. Her firm provides services, including communication and content management with COIs, design and print collateral creation, branding, sales coaching and more. To learn more about Select Advisors, please visit www.select-advisors.com