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Building an effective outreach plan

Goldman Sachs' Brendan McCurdy: In turbulent times, communication is key 

Four key elements of an effective outreach plan"

In the first of a new monthly ‘better business’ column, Brendan McCurdy looks at how advisers can translate some common-sense thoughts on communication into common practice

Goldman Sachs Asset Management is committed to helping today’s investment professionals navigate global markets. In that same spirit, I am pleased to begin this new, regular monthly column, which will examine what we believe are some of the most pressing questions facing investors today.

My goal is to connect you to our best thinking on many of the subjects investors care about – including, for example, the impact of central-bank intervention on financial markets; the potential role of alternative investments in a well-diversified portfolio; and the anticipated transfer of trillions in wealth from the ‘Baby-Boomer’ generation to Millennials.

Which leads me to the title. The turbulent start to 2016 highlights the importance of client engagement and communication for financial professionals. Anxious investors want to put market volatility in perspective, and their needs go beyond talking about investment strategy. While investment advisers cannot influence markets or predict the future, a thoughtful and consistent communications strategy can be an effective way to build stronger relationships during these volatile periods.

Consider therefore these four key elements of an effective outreach plan:

* Be empathetic: Listen to concerns and fears. Clients want to feel they have been heard and that their concerns are understood.

* Be strategic: Remind clients of their financial goals and timeframes. Keep the focus on the big picture and the long term but be sensitive to short-term uncertainty. Evaluate the potential implications of market volatility on the investor’s portfolio – understand how it may impact their overall situation, including their ability to meet short-term financial objectives.

* Be proactive: Financial professionals should not wait to be contacted. Reaching out first can reinforce the relationship and illustrate the value of having an adviser. Show you are doing the utmost to understand current market conditions and analyse what action may be appropriate for your clients.

* Be comprehensive: Pacing communications and using a mix of mediums -- from direct phone calls to personalised emails, group communications or social media updates -- may reinforce the role of the financial professional as a trusted and vital partner for the long term.

An investment adviser’s role is to provide objective advice and guidance to clients investing in complex markets. Often, this effort can mean simply being present and helping guide clients through difficult investment climates. Neither markets nor client emotions can be controlled. But what can be controlled is how the adviser reacts, communicates and guides clients through periods of volatility. All this may be common-sense but it takes effort and dedication to translate it into common practice.

Our job as professional advisers is often called ‘simple, but not easy.’ In addition, it can be one of the most rewarding professions to be a part of, and my team and I have seen many outstanding examples of professional advisers acting as professional heroes to clients and their well-being. We will be thrilled if we can assist in some small way by generating thoughtful discussion through this column.

Brendan McCurdy is a vice president at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, leading the firm’s Europe and Middle East Portfolio Strategy team of Strategic Advisory Solutions

This article first appeared in Professional Adviser magazine

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