August is typically when Canadians, including advisors, go on vacation before the kids go back to school and work kicks into full gear again. While advisors may be tempted to completely disconnect, they may need to be accessible and responsive in the case of client emergencies.
According to Patrick Briscoe, financial planner with Bayswater Wealth Management and Investment Planning Counsel Corp. in London, Ont., advisors need to be responsive in “emergency-type situations,” including the death of a client or a home purchase.
“I don’t think a client should have to wait a week for an appointment to discuss an urgent home purchase, because by that time, it’s too late,” Briscoe said.
“If there is a death in the family and they’re in emotional distress, or they need answers to help ease the process … those are the opportunities when we can add value.”
Briscoe blocks off about an hour every day to respond to client emails and calls, even on vacation. His out-of-office alert directs clients to one of his administrative team members, who will take the call or email and find out what the client issue is.
If warranted, the team will create a calendar invite for Briscoe, attaching any supporting client documents for the meeting, and input the client meeting information into the firm’s CRM system.
In March, Briscoe and his wife were on vacation in Mexico when a client contacted him while he was checking emails. The client’s daughter, who had recently separated from her spouse, was purchasing her first home on her own.
“That kind of adds to the urgency of it — or at least me wanting to make sure it was as smooth a process as possible, because she already had a difficult situation,” Briscoe said.
The client wanted to redeem some funds to help his daughter with the down payment, but wanted to discuss the implications first. After receiving the email, Briscoe called the client right away.
For Nicole Simons, a wealth management advisor and insurance broker at CPN Financial Services Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont., two situations would require her to address client needs while on vacation: on the insurance side, a client death claim (whether it be the client’s spouse or child); on the investment side, a client needing immediate access to funds.
“If they were going to do a withdrawal of any type that would involve liquidating some funds or units in their portfolio, depending on what type of technology I have access to on my vacation, I could assist the client by providing [a] letter of direction to the investment company to expedite the withdrawal,” she said.
A client reached out a couple of weeks ago needing access to funds because their spouse was sick and not working and they needed money to pay their bills, which have increased with inflation.
Although she wasn’t on vacation, “I would want to assist them any way I can while I’m away,” Simons said.
The last time Simons vacationed was in 2018, when she went to the Caribbean with family. She said she checks email and replies to clients even if her out-of-office alert is on.
Her auto-reply contains the dates she will be away as well as the contact information for fund companies she works with. Because her firm doesn’t have its own portal for clients to view their investments, Simons includes fund company information in case clients need to access to their account balances, for example.
To work from vacation, Simons said the ability to access her firm’s advisor portal, to conduct Zoom calls with colleagues or clients, and to use DocuSign are all important.
Briscoe said being able to share files securely with colleagues and a VoIP system to make calls from his office number anywhere that has an internet connection are crucial.
Simons recommended advisors set expectations with their clients and clearly state in their out-of-office alert when they’ll be away. If an advisor has clients that really like to be in touch, she suggested scheduling an appointment with them before taking vacation.
Briscoe said advisors can post informative videos to social media before, or even during, their vacation, providing updates on the markets and reinforcing the advisor’s presence even though they’re away.