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     small talk
What’s your top message
for clients amid economic
uncertainty, and how do you deliver it?
    Todd Neff, financial advisor, Edward Jones, Burlington, Ont.
I had been preparing clients for a downturn. My five- part advice is the same during any period of economic uncertainty: don’t panic, let your goals guide your decisions, take advantage of the long term, continue to
leverage diversification and be opportunistic.
Clients want to know they’re going to be OK. If I can help them
understand that we built a portfolio for a downturn — one that’s dif- ferent from the market — and that their long-term goals are still on track, it often alleviates some of their stress.
My goal is to help clients be informed and feel understood so they gain a sense of control. I video conference with clients, sharing my screen to show their account holdings and performance, research reports, investment strategies, and other planning tools and software.
Alexandra Horwood, director, wealth management, and portfolio manager, Richardson GMP, Toronto When markets moved into bear territory earlier this year, I held an all-client conference on Webex. I told clients not to let the media cause them to panic. The media know nothing about them or their portfolios.
Long-term planning and portfolio construction are what’s important. Depending on the client’s risk tolerance, age and level of invest-
ment knowledge, I tell them that market drops can represent a good buying opportunity. For clients prone to worry, I tell them to avoid the news and focus on positive things: I ask if they’ve been cooking and can share recipes, for example, or if they’re reading more and have book recommendations.
Faisal Karmali, first vice-president, portfolio manager and investment advisor, CIBC Wood Gundy, Calgary My main message is to stay calm. The pandemic is dif- ferent from past financial and economic crises because it’s also a health concern. We take a compassionate approach, recognizing that we’re more than money
managers. We’re a source of information about government assist- ance, tax changes and health planning.
During the pandemic, many people are at home and they absorb information in unique ways. We have to communicate in a way that fits each client — everything from email to video conferencing to social media. Clients are learning to adapt just as we are, and some of them are using social media for the first time, so we’re teaching them
   about different tools.
— Maddie Johnson
     Grooming matters
                   Get ready for
your close-up
When the coronavirus arrived, most of us were unprepared to work from home. A few months later and we’re all seasoned videoconferencers. Virtual meet- ings aren’t likely to stop when the crisis ends. That means it’s worth investing to ensure you portray yourself on screen as professionally and confidently as you would in person.
Curate your background
Take a screenshot of what will appear in the video and study it carefully. It’s OK to have two or three snapshots and mementos, but thin them out so they’re not distracting. And remove anything that’s too personal. You want people listening to what you’re saying, not inspecting your surroundings. Remem- ber: home libraries will be judged.
Adjust the view
Working from home is no excuse to look unkempt. Style your hair, trim your beard and wear makeup if you normally do.
Don’t think you can get away with not ironing. The camera exaggerates wrinkled fabric and lumpy clothes. And wear the entire getup: you may have to stand, and your top should match your bottom.
Avoid interruptions
Agree on a strategy with members of your household to minimize their on-screen time. In my home, a closed door means I’m in a meeting. A friend of mine puts a sign outside her office while her husband corrals their kids. We’ve all witnessed a few cute cameos, but don’t push your luck.
Test it
Have a trial run with a friend and record the session. Anything distracting or out of place? Use this trick from photo shoots to make your setup easy to replicate: mark the exact position of your computer, lamp and foam board with tape. —Gil Martinez
                                   Place your computer in front of you, about 18 inches away. Raise it so the camera is centered on your face, preferably your forehead. Smile and look directly at the camera when possible so your eyes engage with your viewers.
Let there be light
But it has to be the right light — not the one on the ceiling. Buy a cheap directional desk lamp and place it on your more flattering side. Prop up a white foam presentation board opposite the lamp (making sure it’s not visible) to reflect light and diminish any shadows.
JUNE 2020

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