When the pandemic hit, clients started wanting qualitative advice — from the heart — not just quantitative advice, according to Penny Pennington, managing partner at Edward Jones.

“What [clients are] asking of us looks a little less like financial advice and more about advice on their wellbeing,” Pennington said yesterday at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s Compliance and Legal Virtual Forum.

“That really starts with a deep understanding of what's most important to them. We say, ‘We want to understand what's most important to you in order to partner with you over your lifetime,’" she added.

More than two-thirds, or 77%, of the 11,000 retirees and pre-retirees aged 50 or older surveyed by Edward Jones said they wish “there were more resources available to help them plan for an ideal retirement beyond just their finances,” according to Pennington. The survey was conducted for Edward Jones by Age Wave, a think tank focused on the market effects of an aging population, from November 2019 through May 2020.

Data points like that led Edward Jones to identify four pillars of the new retirement: health, family, purpose and finances — in that order, according to Pennington.

The research shows that “people want their financial advisor to act as a financial guide … someone who understands them, who knows deeply who they are and what their goals are,” Pennington said. “Financial advisors really need to combine that knowledge, the head part with the heart part, that empathy, in order to serve clients in that personalized and holistic way.”

Back in November 2019, Pennington said Edward Jones was redefining the way its advisors work with clients on retirement planning by encouraging them to be more like “friends with financial expertise” — also a result of feedback from clients planning for their retirement.

“And as one client said to me: ‘Penny, I don’t think of my financial advisor as a broker or an investment representative. I think of my financial advisor as a friend with financial expertise.’ So, what we heard in those sessions is helping us reshape how we’re journeying with our clients alongside them on this new retirement journey,” Pennington said at the time.