Current pressures on advisers and their clients have arguably never been greater, writes Richard Fraser, who looks to the Samaritans for guidance on helping vulnerable customers
The stress of adapting to lockdown, the health concerns and the financial pressures create a toxic combination.
Financial advisers, by the very nature of their role, will be faced with dealing with not only their own challenges, but those of their clients.
Many clients are worried about the markets and their investments - they don't know whether to sit tight and see it out or make changes to their portfolio. More elderly clients have and continue to feel vulnerable to the potential effects, and their concerns are often compounded by self-isolation. There are also clients that been furloughed and have the uncertainty of redundancy or loss of income over their heads.
We must remember that while Covid-19 has intensified these issues they are not unique to this period of time. Financial advisers are often contacted at times of distress, including death of a loved one, divorce, illness, just to name a few.
If you have a client that has become vulnerable, as many have during this period, they find it difficult to share and discuss the issues they are facing openly. For instance - redundancy can be a very hard thing for clients to talk about openly and can be quite painful.
In these scenarios it's vital to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
I find in these scenarios, and indeed giving advice in general, the five core values of the Samaritans really resonates on how to approach clients:
Listening: Exploring feelings alleviates distress and helps people to reach a better understanding of their situation and the options open to them.
Confidentiality: If people feel safe, they are more likely to be open about their feelings.
Non-judgemental: Samaritans want people to be able to talk to them without fear of prejudice or rejection.
People making their own decisions: Samaritans believe that telling people what to do takes personal responsibility away from them. It's really about making one's own decisions wherever possible.
Human contact: Giving people time, undivided attention and empathy meets a fundamental emotional need and reduces distress and despair. This doesn't necessarily mean physical contact, but the simple act of a phone call.
Fundamentally, the Samaritans are not there to give consultancy or advice - they are there to listen and help people work through their emotions.
As an adviser there are definite parallels, even though our job is more about providing guidance, recommendations and a plan at the end of the day.
It is vitally important that we recognise the boundary of our skills as advisers.
One thing I have had to remind financial advisers I work with is that they are not counsellors. We are not and should not be expected to have the specialist skill set to deal with complex emotional or mental health problems.
If you think a client is in emotional turmoil - they are particularly distressed and emotionally frail - then I would suggest that you encourage them to contact the Samaritans. They are there to offer emotional support and have the ability where appropriate to signpost them onto other specialist support organisations that they partner with.
As part of our ‘There For You' website, Quilter has provided some resources for supporting clients including expert views from the people at Spill, an independent counselling provider.
Richard Fraser is regional director for Quilter Private Client Advisers for Yorkshire & Birmingham. He is also a qualified Samaritan and has volunteered for the charity for the past eight years
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