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While predictions for the year ahead remain fraught with uncertainty, there is cause for optimism as we head into 2021 and — hopefully — leave the worst of the pandemic behind us.

To keep your spirits up and continue providing your clients with proper support, avoid dwelling on the difficulties of the past and focus instead on the year to come, suggested Faisal Karmali, first vice-president, portfolio manager and investment advisor with CIBC Wood Gundy in Calgary.

“I think 2020 has shown us the things that we miss in our lives and what we’re thankful for,” Karmali said. “So, let’s focus on gratitude. Let’s focus on explaining to our clients why we’re fortunate and what we can be happy for.”

There is no question that 2020 was a tumultuous year. However, the resiliency of the stock market has been impressive, and the year ended with another bull market after a short-lived bear market last spring.

“I don’t want to minimize the fact that the pandemic has been extremely challenging for a large segment of society, but at the same time, from our clients’ perspective, the results of 2020 have actually been quite good,” said Todd Neff, financial advisor with Edward Jones in Burlington, Ont.

In times of economic uncertainty, Neff said, his mantra is to “stay calm, stay invested and look for opportunity” — a strategy that will be essential this year. Rather than dwelling on difficult times, he said, he chooses to try to learn from them.

“Look for the lesson,” Neff said. “What I have learned to do is never let a loss or failure pass without digging deep and trying to learn from it so we can get better because of it.”

You also can slow down and focus on what you can control, said Sue Derlago, vice-president and senior financial planner with Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management in Calgary.

There are many aspects of client service you can manage, from assessing the quality of investments and allocation of risk in a portfolio to addressing a client’s tax situation, Derlago said. “It sounds simple and it almost sounds boring, but having that consistent, repeatable process has been really critical: just staying on course and focusing on the things that you do, in fact, have control over,” she said.

You also can control your exposure to external influences — namely, the news. Derlago advises both her clients and her team members to limit their access to the news and stop checking portfolios daily. Such behaviour is “only going to create fear and anxiety.”

Clients expect their advisors to have the stamina to support them as tough economic times continue, so you should create habits and a routine to remain optimistic, Derlago said. “Our job as advisors is to stay above the noise,” she said.

During the lockdown last spring, Derlago’s team began holding daily group check-ins via Zoom — a routine that has been revived now that much of the country is once again under heavy restrictions.

“Implementing a daily huddle became really valuable for us to stay connected and also keep team members and staff positive,” Derlago said.

Karmali said he prioritizes compassion and encourages celebration to keep his Edward Jones team engaged. The team celebrates birthdays and holidays together virtually, and remains in frequent communication through one-on-one sessions and group check-ins.

“We are allowed to be honest and we are allowed to have bad days,” Karmali said. “It’s OK to share [that] and let people know where we’re at.”

Karmali anticipates 2021 will bring challenges of its own, but said he and his clients are “cautiously optimistic.” He’s also hopeful that the year ahead will continue to shine a positive light on the value of financial advice.

“There is still a stigma that we’re just money managers; that we are just looking at investments and creating and growing portfolios,” Karmali said. “I think what 2020 has shown is that we are a lot more intrinsic with our clients. We are a lot more connected with the people behind all that wealth, and that’s a great shift in our industry.”