In Focus: Vulnerability  

Q&A: Behaviourism and the investor post-Covid

Q&A: Behaviourism and the investor post-Covid

Covid-19 has undoubtedly made many investors more wary. 

Both quantitative studies from investment specialists and qualitative insights from advisers indicate various trends starting to take shape over the course of the pandemic. 

On the one hand, as markets tanked and then rallied sharply, advisers have seen more prospective clients asking for help with what were previously do-it-yourself portfolios. Investment platforms, meanwhile, saw an influx of money from people keen on putting more money aside each month to plump up their financial cushion.

On the other, many investors - mostly the non-advised - have had their interest whipped up by stock market trends or lured into more speculative investments by promises of higher returns.

Some investors have even followed the money trail into the world of Bitcoin and similar non-regulated investments. But there are also those concerned over valuations, and all investment decisions are now being made in the context of a much more uncertain world.

So have behaviours been driven by fear, or by greed - or both? And are these perfectly normal, short-term responses to the pandemic, or indicators of underlying financial behaviours that could work against investors?

FTAdviser In Focus caught up with Louis Williams, head of psychology and behavioural insights at Dynamic Planner, and his colleague Chris Jones, Dynamic Planner's proposition director. 

FTAdviser: Are we all vulnerable investors now, thanks to Covid-19?

Louis Williams: There is no doubt that if you took a snapshot of people before the pandemic and today, it will have completely changed.

While many have become more vulnerable, many have become less so, while others become vulnerable in a different way.

People with affordability issues may have found themselves with positive cashflow. People with job security may have income today but concerns about their future.

It’s hard to imagine that many have better physical or mental health, but they may have become more resilient having come through a difficult period.

Sadly, many will have experienced bereavement while having an unexpected inheritance and perhaps having to make large financial decisions for the first time.

Perhaps we have all always been vulnerable and, of course, we are all individuals.

Chris Jones: The important thing about the concept of a vulnerable client is to ensure that when financial professionals deal with anybody, they think about what might make that person vulnerable.

They should make sure they consider any consequences and the impact of their advice to ensure a good client outcome and suitability.

As we have written before, the very act of seeking advice and making a plan can reduce vulnerability by increasing self-efficacy.

FTAdviser: What sort of negative behaviours should advisers be looking out for when it comes to their clients?

LW: In a crisis like the pandemic there is a tendency to put on a brave face for a period of adversity until you can revert to normal.