Spare a Thought for the Stress of Investment Advisors

by Martin Boroson

Stress is a challenge for Financial Advisor and Investment Advisors

When the stock market drops suddenly, as it did on Monday, and again on Tuesday, most people probably think first about their own financial position. They pore over the prognostications of experts. They scroll through twitpics of shocked traders staring at their screens. Maybe they feel some empathy for those who have lost a lot.

On Monday, however, and throughout this week’s continuing market volatility, I’ve been thinking about the wellbeing of investment advisors.

This is because I had the pleasure of speaking, in the past year, at two financial services conferences. One was the annual conference that Charles Schwab hosts for thousands of its Registered Investment Advisors; the other was hosted by Barron’s for its top performing advisory teams.

I was engaged to offer meditation-based training–training designed to help professionals get the mindset they need to be more resilient.

Prior to these conferences, I had helped many high-performing professionals transform stress through meditation, but I had not thought much about financial advisors—their stress levels, their professional development, or what motivates them in their work.

Investment advisors experience stress, however, and it can be extreme. They have to be experts in a field that is fundamentally resistant to expertise. They sit at the uncomfortable interface between an uncertain world and their clients’ deepest hopes and fears—not just about prosperity and wealth, but also about survival.

When markets fluctuate suddenly and dramatically, financial advisors also have to manage some big emotions—their own and their clients—while assessing options rationally and giving advice calmly. And they sure can have some bad days—black days that appear out of the blue, and that leave them feeling very bruised indeed.

What most surprised me most to learn, however, is that investment advisors—at least the ones who attended my sessions—consider themselves to be members of a caring profession. Prior to this, I thought that “caring professions” applied primarily  to therapists, hospice workers, doctors, and nurses—not people who give advice about (or sell) financial products.

But the advisors I met at Schwab and Barron’s explained that in order to do their job well they have to help clients clarify goals and make important decisions about their health, security, and values.

Such conversations often involve deep, personal engagement. They often involve delving into difficult and sensitive areas—family dynamics, deeply-held beliefs, marital strife, generational conflicts. It requires a lot of listening, coaching, and even counselling.

The advisors I met care deeply about their clients’ wellbeing.

So, when market behavior is especially volatile, I take a moment to send some love out to investment advisors around the world, who are probably having a hard day.

I hope that at least a few of them remember to take a moment to meditate, even when all hell is breaking loose. For, in a volatile world, the only thing you can ever really control is your own state of mind. And when the seas of life are particularly choppy, the person who survives is the one who can keep her head above water.