Even if there is little good news to report, it is still important for relationship managers to keep in close contact with their clients and help them to protect their wealth Financial institution failures, corporate uncertainties and a seemingly endless torrent of poor economic news that continues to punish markets on a daily basis, have put a severe dent in investor confidence and put relationships with wealth advisers under the spotlight. Andrea Benenati, Julius Baer private bank chief executive for North Asia, said investors and financial advisers knew the markets would rebound at some time, but in the meantime, it was vital that wealth management professionals focused on helping their clients navigate turbulent times. 'There is a lot of talk within the industry of returning to a back-to-basics approach, but the basics should never have been overlooked in the first place,' said Mr Benenati. Mr Benenati believes that remaining close to clients during tough times is crucial to helping them understand how to preserve wealth during periods of high volatility. 'Even if there is little good news to report, it is still important for relationship managers to keep in close contact with their clients, which relationship managers should do anyway. During this uncertain period we are providing our clients with a safe house and helping them to protect their wealth through investments in cash, bonds and low volatility products until clarity returns,' said Mr Benenati. 'Knowing your bank is not going to disappear in a merger or takeover is another element of maintaining client confidence,' Mr Benenati said. Among Julius Baer staff, confidence in their experience, ability and high morale also transferred to clients and provided them with reassurances that their financial welfare is a priority. 'We are not saying clients have escaped from the financial tsunami unscathed, but we are confident we have depth in our client relationships to continue with the true principles of private banking,' said Mr Benenati. For Phil Nielson, chief executive of financial adviser firm The Henley Group, communication is also a major factor in reviving client confidence. Mr Nielson said since the global financial crisis started to bite hard last September, in addition to normal communication, The Henley Group had been sending clients a weekly update and an individualised message relating to their portfolio. 'Close contact with our clients and high levels of staff morale are probably the two main ingredients for maintaining confidence,' said Mr Nielson. Taking a similar view, Pang Shun-tak, executive director of JP Morgan Private Bank, said it was important to keep clients in the loop with current relevant information. He said the concept was put into action when Lehman Brothers collapsed during last year's Mid-Autumn Festival public holiday when JP Morgan relationship managers put their celebrations on hold to return to their office and provide clients with as much information as was possible. Mr Pang believes drawing on experience and proven strategies helps to retain client confidence. 'During client conversations we emphasise the importance of staying the course by focusing on our core philosophy of well-managed asset allocation. As with all financial crises, we will recover in time, so we must make sure our clients have the confidence to properly diversify and allocate their portfolios when this happens,' said Mr Pang, who has been with JP Morgan for more than 16 years. Enid Yip, chief executive, Asia at Bank Sarasin, said the firm was helping private banking clients to focus on capital preservation. 'Clients are seeking safe, secure homes for their assets - you could call it a flight to security,' Ms Yip said. The uncertain financial environment provided an opportunity for private bankers to prove their value-added capabilities. 'Value added is such a cliche, but at times like these, it is given real meaning. For example, at Sarasin, we understand that real wealth management is a luxury service. Our client is sitting in the back of the Rolls-Royce while we make sure he or she has a smooth journey,' Ms Yip said. 'Do you want a driver who has just got his licence? Or do you want a driver that knows all the detours when there is trouble on the road?' She said the firm was able to rely on the expertise and the trust that had been earned from clients to help them through difficult periods. 'This provides a level of confidence to clients that is comforting at times like these,' said Ms Yip. Mario Becker, head of portfolio solutions, Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management, said in addition to common-sense fundamentals, Deutsche Bank continued to emphasise the importance of risk management in a portfolio. He said using a system developed by Deutsche Bank, relationship mangers were able to work with clients to assess potential risks across an entire portfolio to ensure both return and risks were balanced. Mr Becker said helping clients regain investment confidence also included helping them to readjust their portfolios to preserve assets that would enable them to participate in the market recovery when that happened. 'We continue to work with our clients through teaching and coaching them about the importance of asset allocation and risk management. The strategy is supported by matching analysts' views with appropriate investment product options,' said Mr Becker.