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Top Advisors Weigh In: Clients Want More Information, More Conversations

By Rita Raagas De Ramos January 13, 2021

FA-IQ reached out to top Financial Times-listed advisors to ask:

What are the biggest client engagement challenges you are facing amid the pandemic, and how are you adjusting to meet those challenges?

Brad Baune of Baune Financial, which is part of the Northwestern Mutual network. Mendota Heights, Minn.-based Baune has been in the industry for 37 years and has $499 million in client assets.

“It feels to me like clients are needing to make smaller ‘yes’ decisions, making progress in incremental versus absolute ways. They want — and are willing — to make progress, but it takes more to help them feel comfortable with necessary changes, given our current situation.

Clients want more information, more conversations and more opportunity to have confidence in their decision-making during a time like this. Because the world isn’t ‘normal,’ they’re elevating their decision-making process, which makes our conversations a different kind of exercise. Trust matters at a time like this, and because we are a 'plan first, implement second' organization, that has boded well for us as a firm. Clients know that we’re focused on their plan and on helping them. It’s easier to motivate them to action when we’re talking specifically about the impact for them personally.

Brad Baune
We’re also finding that many clients are saying they don’t have a break in their workday, with the lack of separation between work and home. Where there used to be a 20- or 30-minute drive home at the end of the day, now it’s 10 steps to your kitchen table from your workstation. That’s simply not enough time to unwind, and this is causing clients to seek a more relaxed conversation with an advisor. Our clients are looking for positivity, and a lighter discussion at times — more relational, given that that’s something lacking in many of our day-to-day lives at this point in time.”

Craig Beden of Beden Wealth Management. Vienna, Va.-based Beden has been in the industry for 36 years and has $350 million in client assets.

Craig Beden
“Client engagement has obviously changed during the pandemic. As we are no longer able to meet in person, we had to adjust quickly to the virtual meeting. However, we have found that clients have the desire and willingness to connect during this turbulent period. We are meeting often and efficiently via Zoom. Our number of weekly client meetings has increased dramatically. I have found client meetings to be efficient and productive. Virtual meetings bring a level of comfort and connection that the telephone cannot. I do not sense any loss of connection with my clients through virtual meetings. I enjoy communicating virtually and appreciate the time savings. 

During the first few months of the pandemic, our daily client meetings were more than double what they had been pre-pandemic. This pace continued for almost three months. Our team wanted to be certain our clients knew we understood their concerns and we were focused on helping our clients remain as calm as possible. We made videos, sent emails, set up virtual meetings and made phone calls. Our goal was to not have clients panic. Not all advisors were doing the same. Some advisors chose to hide. As a result, we are enjoying referrals to prospects whose advisors were not calling during the volatility. Our business is enjoying one of our best years of growth.”

Michael Karmin of Strategic Wealth Partners. Deerfield, Ill.-based Karmin has been in the industry for 14 years and has $250 million in client assets.

Michael Karmin
“While we had to suspend in-person client meetings in mid-March, our advisors were in contact with the majority of our clients when the pandemic first hit to assure them we were monitoring the situation closely and to answer any questions they had. Those conversations happened via video call, phone call, or email. Throughout the pandemic, we have remained available to meet with our clients through any of those channels. Some of our advisors were even able to have socially distanced outdoor meetings with clients this summer. We believe that this experience has actually strengthened our client engagement.

Additionally, we pride ourselves on holding in-person events for our clients every year. These events range from practical and educational to appreciation events. Once it became clear we would not be able to host any in-person events this year, we made a concerted effort to remain engaged with our clients. In April, we began sending weekly blog posts to our clients. Many of these blog posts focused on the impact of Covid-19 on our clients’ financial and personal lives and provided tips to help during these uncertain times. We plan to continue sending weekly blog posts even after it is safe to resume in-person events. In addition to the weekly blog posts, we held a live webinar in early August for our client and business partners. Given the positive feedback we received from this webinar, we plan to host another one later this year. We will most likely continue to also hold webinars once we return to hosting in-person events.”

Richard Buoncore of MAI Capital Management. Cleveland-based Buoncore has been in the industry for 42 years and has $1.7 billion in client assets.

Richard Buoncore
“At MAI, we work with clients to create a balanced financial plan to avoid being forced to sell securities at depressed prices when times get tough. This has allowed MAI to adjust client plans in a positive way. We have been responding to market conditions to better position clients where there is opportunity, help some clients retire a bit earlier than planned, allow well-prepared clients to offer some financial help to their family and donate more to causes close to their hearts.

It’s natural for needs, objectives and preferences to change, especially during unsettling times. As a result, we continue to educate, share ideas and recommend appropriate changes to benefit our clients. This includes discussing items such as the current state of their financial affairs, desired future lifestyle and comfort level going forward. This helps to ensure clients are maximizing all available options and are positioned on a path to maintain their financial health.

MAI has shown a steadfast commitment to consistent innovation, particularly when it comes to technology available to our team and clients. Working together, advisors and clients have access to two main portals, MAI InvestView and MAI WealthView. These portals unlock a wealth of information for clients and provide advisors with a secure way to share the latest information, data and details with clients in real-time. These tools have facilitated stronger conversations and relationships with clients which have been crucial over the past few months.”

This is part of an ongoing series wherein we ask Top Financial Times 400, 300, and 401 Advisors to answer pressing questions about the industry, their practice or their clients. Brokers and advisors make it to the respective Financial Times lists based on scores in six criteria: AUM, AUM growth rate, years in existence, advanced industry credentials, online accessibility and compliance records.

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Tags:  Finding and winning new clients , Client retention , Technology , Staffing and recruiting , Northwestern Mutual

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