Sad couple with problems talking in a marriage counseling

During the early days of the pandemic, investors were stressed but pleased with the advice received from their advisors, finds a survey from the Ontario Securities Commissions (OSC) published on Wednesday.

In the survey conducted in early April, almost half of respondents (47%) said they were experiencing increased levels of stress. Such a situation can “dramatically affect investment decisions by decreasing a person’s willingness to take risks,” the survey said.

However, the poll found that the overwhelming majority of investors (85%) held all their investments during this period of market volatility.

Those more likely not to have sold any investments had advisors, low financial knowledge and low stress levels when thinking about their investments.

A small but significant number of respondents (7%) sold a large portion of their investments — at least 20% of their portfolios.

The OSC noted that data on respondents was insufficient to evaluate whether they should have sold or held in response to the pandemic or whether they sold due to financial hardship.

The study found, however, that 50% of respondents said advice from an advisor was the most important information they receive when deciding to buy or sell.

Pandemic communication and advice

Most respondents with advisors (74%) had communicated with their advisors during the pandemic (the survey included robos among advisors). Nearly half had discussions with their advisors (46%), while 17% received informative messages and 11% received some other form of communication.

The remaining 26% had no communication with their advisors.

Of the 46% who had discussions with their advisors, about 29% said their advisors reached out to them, while 13.5% reached out to their advisors themselves and about 4% of respondents made contact with their advisors after receiving informative messages.

The most common topic of advisor-client discussions was economic and market events (37%), followed by changes in portfolio value (24%), financial plans (18%), and the client’s employment, health and financial needs (17%).

Overall, the majority of investors (81%) rated their advisors’ advice during the pandemic positively. This figure included 18% of respondents who rated the advice as “excellent,” 35% who rated it “very good” and 28% who rated it “good.”

A significant minority — 19% — weren’t impressed with their advisors’ advice, rating it “fair,” “poor” or “very poor.”

Because the question about advice was asked only of investors who had received advice since the start of the pandemic, the question didn’t necessarily indicate perceptions of advice typically received, the OSC said in a summary report.

Why clients switch advisors

When asked if they’ve ever switched advisors, about four in 10 respondents (44%) said they have and another 7% said they’d like to switch. Those retired and with more invested assets were more likely to have switched.

The top reasons for switching were advisor retirement (32% of respondents), finding a preferred advisor (31%), not liking the advice or services received (27%) and poor returns (17%). Fees were cited by 13%.

Clients walking out the door shouldn’t be a concern for most advisors: the majority of respondents said they’re satisfied with their advisors’ service and advice (83%).

Another positive finding was that nearly all advised respondents (95%) said their advisors ask about their investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. For those who had ever switched advisors, that figure was even higher — 97%.

For full details, read the OSC investor experience survey.

About the OSC survey: Leger conducted an online survey of 1,942 Canadian investors between April 1 and April 12, 2020, using Leger’s online panel. To qualify, investors had to have investments beyond only Canada savings bonds, segregated funds or pension plans. They also had to invest with an advisor (69% of respondents) or online investment service (7%), or as a self-directed investor (23%).

The OSC said in a summary report that it will use the survey to “enhance delivery of investor education and support retail investors in today’s complex and uncertain investing environment.”