Advising clients in times of uncertainty
Communication is the key to guiding panicked SMSF clients through unpredictable political changes and economic events.
There’s a lot going on right now. It’s end of financial year, there’s an election going on, the accountants' exemption finishes on 30 June, there’s a raft of changes on the way for super, and the markets are being entirely unhelpful.
All this makes for uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes stress. In fact, not knowing what’s going to happen is far more stressful than knowing something bad is coming.
So, how to deal with it?
Firstly, and most importantly, don’t bury your head in the sand. Sticking your fingers in your ears and mentally yelling ‘la la la’ doesn’t make anything better – for you, your staff or your clients.
Uncertainty shared is OK. It is OK to tell your customers that you don’t know what is going to happen with the super legislation. Just make sure you follow that statement up with one about the fact that regardless of what happens, you will work through the changes, and work out the best way forward for each individual client. After all, that’s what you do.
And don’t forget, for all the posturing from both the government and the opposition, there won’t be instant changes. There will be consultation with industry, lots of debate, lots of time to get on top of what’s happening.
I would give it six months at an absolute minimum, probably 12. During this time, you will need to stay in touch with your clients, and make sure they aren’t, as my daughter would say "having a freak-down". Don’t forget, even if the $1.6 million limit comes in, or the tax on income over $75,000 (as proposed by the ALP), superannuation is still highly tax effective.
In a way, the current state of affairs is similar to the GFC. Lots of uncertainty, lots of doom and gloom naysayers, throwing hands up in the air and suggestions that opting out of the system altogether is the only way forward. As we all know though, none of that came true, and it’s unlikely to this time either.
I would strongly suggest that during the next 12 months, you stay in touch with your clients more frequently than you otherwise would. This doesn’t mean that you need to suddenly start producing fancy email newsletters every week, but it does mean than a quick email every month wouldn’t go astray. Make sure your clients know that they are the most important part of your business, and that you are on their side.
As well as your clients, you will also need to make sure your team are travelling OK. Not many people are comfortable walking into the boss's office and asking: ‘So, with all this change, are we going to lose customers? Am I going to have a job?’
You might laugh and think that no one in their right mind would think that, but you’d be surprised. In the absence of you saying anything, they will be deciding for themselves what it all means, and may well come to a very different conclusion than you!
Even if you only have a couple of staff, make sure that you keep the lines of communication open, and let them know that with all the changes right now, you will work through them as a team and come out the other side a stronger business with even better client relationships. Which, of course, was always the idea anyway.
Sarah Penn, director, Mayflower Consulting