Battered by rocky markets, clients seek comfort from advisers

Some planners share how they respond to questions on economy

Mar 31, 2008 @ 12:01 am

By Aaron Siegel

Clients are nervous and with good reason.

Every day, it seems, a different pundit is calling for recession.

Housing prices are slumping, and the stock market has been rocked. Meanwhile, subprime woes continue.

So what are financial advisers doing to calm jittery clients, particularly those who are near retirement?

Several advisers who attended the InvestmentNews Retirement Income Summit in New York last week explained how they have responded to clients who asked questions about the economy.

Ian Weinberg

Chief executive

Family Wealth and Pension Management LLC of Woodbury, N.Y.

Assets under management: $150 million

We have worked hard to educate our clients about market cycles, and they all responded extremely well to our calls.

Most investors are nervous during periods like this, and this could be a unique type of recession that we have not seen, so we are approaching it cautiously.

A lot of planners that I have met with, or heard at conferences, could be in denial about the low interest rates, and that the portfolio models that they are using will not have much to do with how clients' portfolios will perform in the future.

Lewis J. Altfest

President

L.J. Altfest & Co. of New York

Assets under management: $550 million

Many clients are nervous now, and I am spending a lot of time on conference calls for all of them.

In an effort to calm frayed nerves, I have spent a lot of time on the phone with my clients, explaining to them that the firm was in control and that there should not be any skeletons coming out of the closet.

Despite market uncertainty, I told my clients that they should expect to be pleasantly surprised by the end of the year.

Tom Orecchio

Principal

Greenbaum and Orecchio Inc. of Old Tappan, N.J.

Assets under management: $450 million

We sent a letter to our clients and said that the current market slide is no different than any previous historic correction.

In mid-March, we called our clients and explained to them that their portfolios are constructed to beat the markets and they should not pay attention to noise in the financial markets.

Nicholas Nicolette

Principal

Sterling Financial Inc. of Sparta, N.J.

Assets under management: $250 million

While our clients have concerns about the state of the financial markets, they see that the financial markets go through cycles, and it is important for them to look at cash needs and plan accordingly.

We are reaching out to our clients to make sure that they are calm, but we have not had people calling in a panic wondering if their financial futures are rapidly disappearing.

Michael Terry

Founding principal

Michael Terry Planning LLC of Queens, N.Y.

Assets under management: $30 million

My clients have not had any trouble.

Most of them are in the accumulation phase and most clients understand that despite the bear market, their assets are being invested under a plan, and we are sticking with the plan.

These markets don't bother my clients too much. They have been through tough markets twice, and they are not concerned about their retirement being derailed.

Jim Boudreaux

Senior associate

Baystate Financial Services of Boston

Assets under management: $4 billion

We have done conference calls with our clients since the Bear Stearns Cos. [Inc. of New York] mess.

Bear was taken over as a result of bad timing, and if they had the liquidity that the other major financial institutions have, this wouldn't have happened.

My clients are diversified in such a matter that they are protected. We don't have issues where people are calling us up to get out of the market.

From that stance, we are very lucky that we have informed relationships with our clients. As fee-based planners it behooves us to keep our clients informed.

Robert Glovsky

President

Mintz Levin Financial Advisors LLC of Boston

Assets under management: $1.2 billion

The clients want us to grow their money, so when we talk to them about how much they have lost, they tend to be much more comfortable and relaxed, and understand the downside protection [that we have provided them].

The markets have been pretty benign over the past five years. People are looking back to 2002 and are realizing that the markets go in cycles.

Some of our clients are expressing a "gloom and doom" scenario but realize that that they are reacting with their emotions and they then begin to put the market situation into perspective.

E-mail Aaron Siegel at asiegel@investmentnews.com.

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