What roles are you playing in these strange times?

In a previous article titled “How many hats do you wear?” I identified the role of a financial adviser as that of,

  • Dream Coach
  • Lifestyle Enabler
  • Behaviour Coach
  • Family Finance Guide
  • Financial Planner

All of these roles are still relevant and applicable, but I think we have learned in the last few months that you can offer and indeed do offer far more than this, particularly when the chips are down. And the chips really are down at the moment, as your clients potentially face the threats of,

  • A serious ill-health for themselves and their family members as a result of Covid-19
  • The loss of loved ones to Covid-19
  • The loss of their job
  • Income reduction
  • Loss of value in their investments and pensions
  • Significant social restrictions remaining in place for some time
  • A very gloomy economic picture

So what are the additional roles that you can offer your clients in these very challenging times?


Financial Leader

For many of your clients, their financial situation has been turned on its head. The pandemic has exploded into our lives with enormous financial consequences for many people. Businesses are closed, some never to re-open, others to remain closed for quite some time yet. Lots of people have seen a significant reduction or total loss of income and are scrambling around, trying to decide how to avoid the financial abyss.

You have a choice. Do you wait for your clients to contact you for advice, or do you get on the front foot and lead them through the crisis? The latter option wins every time. Phone your clients, use online meetings tools and email them with useful information. There are quite a number of hot topics – claiming government support, family budgeting, making savings, actions to take quickly in relation to your personal finances when you lose your job, managing income reduction. Now is the time to be proactive, like never before.

Of course this also applies to clients who are relatively untouched financially by the pandemic. While you can’t meet them currently, you can remain out in front of them. Remind them that these times will pass, that they need to sit tight and do the right things. Both the pandemic and the volatile markets will eventually pass.



The speed of the pandemic caught everyone off-guard, no-one was prepared. Jobs and income disappeared overnight, wreaking financial havoc for families and causing huge anxiety. Others have really struggled as the stock market plummeted. Some people are struggling to get out of the spin.

Now is your time to help them, by showing them the best path forward. You may help them make rational decisions about using emergency savings, seeking debt relief or by stopping them from trying to time the investment markets. Your cool head will help them to avoid compounding the impact of these external negative forces. Their situation is hard enough. Your expert advice can prevent them making it worse. Even reminding clients that these tough times will eventually pass adds value.


Solutions Enabler

This is not a new role carried out by you, but one that may not be viewed as hugely valuable usually… Helping clients submit claims, access funds, draw down loans or negotiate debt relief may be the single most important aid you can give to clients at this point in time. Do this well with little fuss or drama, and your clients will remember this forever. Then when their financial situation improves, they will be back to you, seeking your advice in more positive circumstances.


Empathetic Ear

As the days go on, we all unfortunately are hearing of more people that we know who have succumbed or lost loved ones to Covid-19. This is going to result in extremely sad and difficult conversations with clients or their families. Financial advisers add enormous value in these situations. Apart from assisting with life cover claims that can at least remove financial stress from the grieving process, you are also really well practiced in gently supporting and steering clients through these difficult times.


The current climate offers another wonderful opportunity for financial advisers to demonstrate the full breadth of skills that you possess. As usual, as a profession you will not be found wanting.

What do you do when the flow of new clients dries up.

As advisers are adjusting to working remotely from the office and distanced from clients, the challenge of attracting new clients has now been raised with me a number of times.

Most advisers have adjusted quickly to servicing existing clients, however attracting new clients has been more challenging. While the recent economic upheaval has created a difficult backdrop for all, the issue has been particularly challenging for advisers whose main source of new clients traditionally has been by referral, particularly where the adviser had an effective way of asking for referrals. Because client conversations are not quite as smooth when using Zoom etc, advisers are finding it more difficult to have effective referral conversations.

My advice? While referrals were and will always be a rich source of new clients, they can’t be your only approach. It’s time to go back to the first principles of marketing and to consider in particular the concepts of Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning (STP).


Some definitions

So we’ll start with a 30-second marketing lesson. Here is a definition of each, as set out by Philip Kotler, the grandfather of marketing education.

  • Market Segmentation: Dividing a market into distinct groups of buyers with different needs, characteristics or behaviour, who might require separate products or marketing mixes.
  • Market Targeting: The process of evaluating each market segment’s attractiveness and selecting one or more segments to enter.
  • Market Positioning: Arranging for a product (or service) to occupy a clear, distinctive and desirable place relative to competing products (or services) in the minds of target consumers.


What’s happening in the financial adviser market in Ireland?

Many financial advisers realise that a “one size fits all” proposition just doesn’t cut it any more. Either for the client who is looking for more than a generic service, or for the adviser who cannot profitably or successfully deliver the same service to all clients irrespective of their value, characteristics, needs etc.

As a result, many advisers are undertaking segmentation exercises by analysing both potential customers and their existing client bases. The goal is to identify all of the different groups of customers, possibly by sector, by business potential metrics, or by demographic factors.

Once the segmentation exercise is completed, the next task is to identify the segment(s) that you are going to target. These may for example be SME business owners within your county and surrounding counties, or corporate executives aged over 50. It’s quite possible that you will also decide to target another group such as newlyweds – they might offer lower value today, but offer growth potential in the future. You will decide your target groups based on your access to those people, the segment potential, your areas of expertise and specialism, the capability of your advisers etc.

Most advisers are relatively comfortable with these first two steps, it’s the third step of positioning that challenges people more. This is where you aim your proposition, your services and your communications at the groups you have identified to target. The reason people are uncomfortable with this is because through targeting specific groups, there is a risk of not appealing to others outside of your target groups – of leaving people out.

Of course the alternative is to try and talk to everybody, but the significant risk with this is that you can end up appealing to no-one.


Why STP is so important for financial advisers today

It’s this final step of having the courage to position yourself within a specific target market (or even a niche) that is a step too far for many advisers. They struggle with the idea that while attracting new clients might be quite tough today, that it might actually be easier if you narrow your focus! How does this make sense?

If you offer a generic service to clients, they will recognise this. They won’t feel any particular connection with what you do, as it is not targeted at them. Instead if you have a clear target market and all of your communications are aimed with that group specifically in mind, the customers within that group will connect with your messages and are more likely to view you as a specialist who is out to serve their specific needs.

There are lots of very good financial advisers operating in the Irish market. At the end of the day, how are you going to stand apart from the crowd if you offer a very generic service? Instead the answer may lie in identifying your ideal clients, and then developing your proposition and communication approaches to target them in a very structured way.