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Building Strength Through Adversity

It’s no secret that unemployment has risen to worrisome heights this year as the impact of COVID-19 works its way through the economy.

In its September report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the latest unemployment rate at 7.9%. This was a significant improvement from the year’s high of 14.7% in April but still leaves close to 13 million people out of work.

The downturn in jobs has not impacted industries equally, however. In fact, recent media reports have anecdotally suggested accelerating growth in wealth management employment. Fidelity, for example, just announced that the firm was seeking to hire an additional 4,000 client-facing personnel, including financial advisors, licensed representatives and customer service employees. This is nearly a 10% increase in the firm’s overall employment. Fisher Investments also recently announced that it has completed construction of a new facility that will house an additional 1,100 employees, increasing that firm’s total workforce by about one quarter.

In both cases, the companies pointed to significant accelerations in growth among retail clients this year. Fidelity reported a 24% increase in households engaged in financial planning interactions during 2Q20 compared to a year before. According to the firm’s announcement, recent market volatility and growing economic complexity “has driven millions of new and existing customers to open accounts, increase trading activity and contribute additional savings.” Fisher spokespeople, too, pointed to the need to support “ongoing rapid growth.”

It is encouraging that the investing public appears to be reaching out to their wealth managers in significant numbers to help them navigate this time of crisis. As the industry continues to expand its capabilities and resources to meet the service demands of a new market reality, advisors can benefit in terms of client loyalty, retention and referrals by communicating their enhanced commitment, increased expertise and range of solutions to help clients navigate challenging times.