woman working from home

Across the country, Canadians are dealing with the greatest challenges they’ve faced since World War II. Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, in addition to concerns for their health and that of their families, Canadians are facing unprecedented financial challenges. The extraordinary measures implemented to control the spread of the virus have already taken a massive toll on the economy, on the markets and on the bank accounts of millions of Canadians.

There’s widespread fear and uncertainty, and for some, outright panic. It’s times like these where financial planners become more important than ever. Whether dealing with job loss, a struggling family business or what may appear to be a crippling blow to their retirement savings, Canadians need guidance and empathetic, sage counsel to help them come to terms with the impact of this crisis on their individual financial situations.

Not only do Canadians need short-term guidance to help them get through the immediate challenges they’re facing, including help with day-to-day budgets and cash flow, but also counsel on the long-term impact of this crisis and support for getting back on track toward financial well-being. More than ever, Canadians need reassurance and guidance from a true professional who can focus on the human side of the crisis and see their clients’ whole picture. They need a professional who can put this crisis in perspective and help them regain confidence that they’ll be okay.

The financial planning profession needs to work together to ensure all Canadians can access such professional counsel. Financial planners are very well positioned to support Canadians when stress, anxiety and uncertainty is at an all-time high. Finding ways for more consumers to benefit from the sage advice of financial planners should be a top priority. It’s time for all of us who can to take action to help Canadians gain access to such counsel.

History has shown that it is during, and immediately after, periods of market and economic turmoil that consumers most appreciate the value that holistic, professional financial planning brings to their lives. We’ve seen that during phases of strong economic growth, Canadians tend to feel more confident in their ability to reach their financial goals, and may be lulled into a false sense of security. It’s situations like the one we all face today that serve as a harsh reminder of the importance of maintaining a dynamic financial plan.

In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, research conducted by FP Canada’s predecessor organization showed that the value of financial planning was viewed more favourably than ever before in 2009 and 2010. During that highly uncertain period, financial planners stepped up to help their clients navigate the crisis, and many also reached out beyond their client base to offer pro-bono advice during that time of need.

With a new era of even greater financial uncertainty now upon us, the financial planning profession must once again put its best foot forward. With fear and anxiety driving too many personal financial decisions, there’s currently no replacement for the personalized reassurance that only a human can provide — even if through a phone call or video conference, since we can’t currently meet in person.

In working with clients during these difficult times, soft skills and professional skills are more important than ever. Beyond the technical expertise that enables planners to put economic and market downturns into perspective for their clients, a strong understanding of behavioural economics can help planners more effectively coach clients who are inclined to knee-jerk reactions when markets are in decline. Likewise, strong communication skills are essential to ensure clients understand the best course of action and feel their concerns are being heard. That includes actively listening, practising empathy and having an ability to calm down panicked clients — just a few of the key characteristics that set human planners apart from what technology can offer.

In these times, I’m reminded of the definition of what makes a profession. A profession is a calling. It puts those it serves above the interest of its members, and the services it provides are essential to the well-being of society. There is no better time than now to show Canadians that financial planning is indeed a true profession. History has shown that in times of crisis, the community of CFP professionals from coast to coast has stepped up, giving back to their communities and offering help to those who most need their professional counsel. Once again, the financial planning profession has an opportunity to help, and there is no more qualified or passionate group of professionals to lead Canadians through this difficult time.