Pandemic Anxieties for FAs, Clients Are Skyrocketing Again – Emotional Quotient Training Could Help

As “Whipsaw” Pandemic Anxieties Intensify, Beacon Partners’ Meg Hanington Discusses the Future of EQ-Driven Business Coaching for Financial Advisors

The direction of the COVID pandemic right now feels like every “fake ending” of a slasher horror film. with the requisite final jump scare still to emerge.  

 During times of social distancing, learn to cope with your fear in a healthy way.

The characters believe they’re finally out of the woods, just before the homicidal killer makes one final – and deadly – pounce.

The alarming surge of new infections – including “breakthrough infections” among those who are fully vaccinated – due to the delta variant of the COVID virus is driving a renewed sense of concern and heightened anxieties throughout the country…and across the wealth management space.

Consider the results from our latest WSR survey of financial advisor readers, completed this week:

  • 78% of survey participants in mid-June “strongly agreed” that the worst of the pandemic was over
  • 62% of survey participants feel similarly as of mid-August, signaling a significant drop in confidence
  • 73% of survey participants as of mid-August are feeling “moderately to strongly increased anxiety” about the possibility of future disruption caused by a resurgence of the COVID pandemic

As wealth management firms and their financial advisors navigate the nebulous path forward on when – and how – to return to a more normal set of working circumstances, being able to address the anxiety that many of their team members feel will be crucial to a seamless return to work.

Emotional Quotient to the Rescue

Meg Hanington, EPC, the Co-Founder of Beacon Partners, a business coaching and consulting firm for independent financial advisors, believes that a greater focus on Emotional Quotient Programs could help firms and their affiliated financial advisor businesses process much of this anxiety.

Her firm’s Emotional Quotient training program addresses how much of the inertia and performance issues within an organization can be tied back three key issues:  A lack of communication, a lack of boundaries, and poor emotional regulation. 

In Hanington’s perspective, effective teams can thrive when they have mastered each of the three areas via “emotional intelligence,” which Beacon Partners defines as the ability to recognize and understand your emotions and the emotions of others at work.  

Program participants learn to be more effective team players and better business leaders by achieving an elevated level of self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills. 

WSR recently connected with Hanington to discuss her firm’s Emotional Quotient programs, and how the EQ approach can be especially helpful during times of prolonged uncertainty and anxiety.

WSR:  Are your clients seeing a surge of anxiety among their employees and clients with respect to the COVID variants that are causing a surge once more in pandemic risks across the country?

The country has no doubt been on edge since March of 2020 and we continue to be with all the changing information regarding what is best to do and how to keep our families and co-workers safe. Independent financial advisors and their teams are no different. 

They are seeing increased levels of anxiety with their clients and focus on how best to continue to deliver the best experiences for their clients at a time when there is so much uncertainty. 

WSR:  How do these anxieties commonly manifest in the sort of hand holding that independent financial advisors do day to day – With clients and their teams?

Independent financial advisors are good at what they do because they are very empathetic. On a daily basis, they must know how to help their clients through a myriad of lifechanging events:  From the loss of a loved one, to how to pay for college, and more. These skills are being put to the test more than ever during these extremely emotionally challenging times. 

The uptick we have seen with advisors in speaking with their clients is focused more on staying in touch and seeing how they are coping, checking in with them about their loved ones and how they are handling all the conflicting information about the pandemic. 

While speaking with them about their investments and financial planning needs are also important, advisors are checking in on matters unrelated to personal finance more frequently than before. 

WSR:  Would it be a safe bet to say that the resurgence of pandemic fears is part of a broader whipsawing of anxieties that have been intensifying off and on over the past 16 months now?

There’s absolutely a broad whipsawing of anxieties happening across the industry.  There has been a lot of conflicting information based on research emerge – how could emotional responses not have changed?

We have learned so much over the past 16 months and our scientific community continues to learn and apprise us of the best information they have available at the time. Staying calm, reading as much you can, and doing what you feel is best for your family and your clients is all that can be asked of you. 

There’s no question that the resurgence of the pandemic is especially difficult for folks because it’s hard to operate in an environment where we don’t know “what’s next.”

People have become very sensitive to the constant changes in policy and not really knowing what lies ahead. We also see that many folks are very anxious about the fall with children going back to school and many businesses requiring some sort of physical presence in the office. 

WSR:  How can your EQ Program help financial advisor business owners be more effective in addressing the highly volatile emotions that employees and clients alike are feeling these days? 

There is no health without mental health. – WHO

Our EQ program supports the independent financial advisor and their team members with the ability to recognize and understand their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. 

We enable an in-depth understanding and mastery of cognitive and emotional dynamics in the workplace. In addition, we support the team through instruction on self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills. 

Individuals who are constantly under stress do not operate effectively. In this situation, our modules that address emotional awareness and self-regulation are very helpful for folks to identify their triggers and how to navigate the emotional response in a less reactive manner. 

Clients are more on edge, which may cause leaders to be in a more emotionally reactive state. Remaining calm and de-escalating negative behaviors is one of the core components of our EQ program. 

WSR:  For financial advisors who want to become more emotionally intelligent, what are some key steps to take in getting started on this journey?

James Miller, Contributing Editor & Research Analyst

The first part of the journey is for the financial advisor to understand what their barriers are. If they feel that their office can and should operate more smoothly but they are challenged with the “how,” then working with a firm like Beacon Partners can assist them with discovering exactly what their unique barriers are and to create a plan to “solve for.” 

The hardest part of the journey is being open to the possibility of change and being willing to do the work to effectively implement meaningful behavioral change within their organization. 

Emotional intelligence has been taught to business owners and corporations since the 1990’s and now more than ever, with the current environment, entrepreneurs must provide resources to their teams to navigate their day-to-day more effectively to prevent burnout.

James Miller, Contributing Editor & Research Analyst, can be reached at ContributingEd@wealthsolutionsreport.com

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