The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many brokerage firms to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives and quickly manage an influx of client inquiries through digital self-service features. Many of the leading brokerage firms have rolled out coronavirus strategies that proactively address their audience’s concerns over financial disruptions and establish a centralized resources page housing all clients’ needs. In April 2020, Corporate Insight (CI) surveyed investors asking how COVID-19 has impacted their financial lives and what—if anything—they would do in response to these changes. Most respondents (59%) noted that these market effects had a negative or very negative impact on their financial wellbeing. Although half of the investor population reported no plans to take any action in response, 15% stated they would speak with their advisor and 11% said they would seek out free advice.

Exhibit 1 | COVID-19 impacted most clients’ financial wellbeing negatively

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your financial wellbeing?

Amid these negative impacts, firms have a role to play in providing guidance and communication on further market effects as well as in waylaying investor concerns. As part of our April 2020 COVID-19 survey, we asked investors if they had received communication from their brokerage firms regarding the pandemic and how satisfied they were with the content. Of the entire investor population, 52% said they received communication from their brokerage firm, and 54% noted receiving communication from their advisor. Satisfaction with brokerage and advisor communication was consistent across investor segments (i.e., advised, self-directed), with 80% of investors saying they are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with brokerage communication, and 81% reporting the same for their advisor communication.

Exhibit 2 | Investors’ satisfaction with COVID-19 communication high

Overall, how satisfied are you with the pandemic-related communication you have received from your provider?

To maintain these high levels of investor satisfaction, brokerages must continue frequent and transparent communication. Firms can deliver timely COVID-19 and market volatility responses through dedicated site pages, email, social media, and secure or public site messaging.

Dedicated Resource Pages

As a first line of defense, many brokerages have introduced new, dedicated resource pages that consolidate digital self-service features and support options. These “information hubs” offer investors immediate responses to frequently asked questions, helping to reduce demand on call centers and live chat. These pages can also serve as a source of preventive advice, reassurance and financial support. Ally’s Coronavirus Response is organized by vertical (i.e., Auto, Bank, Home Loans, Invest and Ally Lending/HCS), offering dedicated customer service phone numbers by business line and listing relief measures by product type. Each section contains embedded links leading clients to useful digital features and reliable third-party resources (e.g., CDC and WHO).

Ally Coronavirus Response Page (Truncated)

In addition to COVID-19 resource pages, brokerages are introducing site pages that address recent market volatility. Following market dips in February and March, Betterment launched a Guide to Market Volatility that is findable via public and secure site banners. The page offers five sections—Video Commentary, What Is Market Volatility, Fresh Off the Press, Our Advice on What to Do, and More Advice—with educational videos and articles. In some videos, Betterment opts to promote the value of its own features, such as tax-loss harvesting, in order to encourage clients to stay invested and keep their money within Betterment’s ecosystem.

Proactive Communication

To head off client concerns, many brokerage firms are rolling out multi-channel communication strategies that proactively address service interruptions, relief programs and self-service features. Fidelity and TD Ameritrade offer strong examples of site messaging, with Fidelity displaying a COVID-19 Resource Center banner on its public site webpage and TD Ameritrade addressing market volatility with links to its FAQs and a message from its CEO. Many other brokerages have opted to display similar secure and public site messages, which help redirect incoming client requests and may instill consumer confidence in the firm given each message’s prominent display.

Fidelity Homepage Banner and TD Ameritrade Secure Site Banner

In the last few months, email has played a critical role in brokerage firms’ COVID-19 and market volatility messaging. Brokers employ a variety of communication techniques and multi-tonal messages within each email, helping to reach a broad audience who may require different levels of assurance, explanation or empathy. These emails address a broad range of topics from market volatility to service interruptions and leadership messages. JPMorgan Chase’s You Invest team delivered a timely email following March’s market downturn, reassuring investors and directing them to the firm’s education hub. Jay Shah, CEO of Personal Capital, sent a personal message empathizing with those affected by COVID-19 and linked to the firm’s recent Investment Committee call, which discussed market conditions. TD Ameritrade’s email discusses customer service wait times and suggests online and mobile features that may help clients complete necessary financial management tasks.

TD Ameritrade Online Resources Email

Although less frequent, some brokerages leverage social media outlets to educate followers on virus-related relief measures, the economy and market conditions. Microinvesting app Stash posted swipeable images with details on the CARES Act. The comments section of the post includes a link to read an article about federal relief checks.

We at Corporate Insight are closely monitoring how firms in our industry are responding to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Read our continuing coverage on our company blog, and for our clients, we are launching a new authenticated site section that collects all messaging across all firms tracked by our Monitor services.

April 17 Stash Instagram Post