Skip to Main Content

How to Alleviate the
COVID-19 Burden
on Senior Clients

As founder and CEO of Age-Friendly® Business, and a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging (CPCA), Rhonda Latreille offers tips and tools for how Advisors can demonstrate leadership, offer support, and ultimately, grow their practice – with compassion.

June 2020

Photo of Rhonda Latreille

Rhonda Latreille

MBA, CPCA, Founder and CEO, Age-Friendly Business®

Read bio

While COVID-19 has been a force of change, cutting across every demographic, seniors have arguably taken the brunt with high health risks, extreme isolation and rising fraud. As founder and CEO of Age-Friendly® Business, and a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging (CPCA), Rhonda Latreille offers tips and tools for how Advisors can demonstrate leadership, offer support, and ultimately, grow their practice – with compassion.

COVID-19: Seniors in focus

No one can deny that COVID-19 has brought volatility to client portfolios. But it has also shone a spotlight on the evolving needs of seniors, underscoring the need to provide tangible support to this potentially vulnerable population – and one of the biggest targets for the increasing number of fraudsters and scammers during the current pandemic.

According to CanAge, a national seniors advocacy organization, 92% of seniors live at home, as opposed to long-term care facilities, and one in five are subject to elder abuse, which includes frauds and scams.1 Add to this, now is the prime time to prey on the susceptible: recent stats from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) show that Canadians have already lost more than $1.8 million to coronavirus-related scams since March 62 (and these numbers only reflect the reported cases). What can Advisors do to help prevent this?

More than ever, clients are looking for leadership across industries, through competence, clarity and importantly – compassion. For Advisors, your specialist market expertise has to be bundled with the ability to recognize the fear and uncertainty prevalent right now, going that extra mile to understand (and address) the unique challenges of ALL your clients, including the 50-plus cohort. It’s an opportunity to stand above the crowd, and for the real leaders in our communities to step up. While there is much Advisors do not have power over right now, you DO have the ability to choose how you’ll respond in this time of global crisis.

Stepping up your game

My focus is on training professionals to look beyond account statements to protect the whole client. An important part of this is recognition and appreciation for what’s keeping seniors up at night, and then providing the appropriate information and support, which engenders trust, and deepens the relationship. In the current environment, everyone is facing new circumstances, and with social distancing in full force, many may not have access to traditional support systems to provide guidance, caution and protection.

As a starting point, consider a weekly check-in call to older clients who may be sheltered in, to let them know that you’re thinking about them and that you care. Normalize their feelings of uncertainty, and don’t assume they have someone to confide in. It’s not a grand gesture, but it can make an enormous impact to their mental well-being, sparking an emotional connection during these times of social isolation.

Importantly, if you’re not already, keep them in the know of the newer scams that are quickly arising to take advantage of people during the public health crisis. Yes, Canadians are worried about the value of their portfolios, but don’t forget to address how they’re at risk in their day-to-day life too. It’s necessary to remind them that the Canadian government WILL NOT be soliciting seniors over the phone to send them Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) relief funding, or asking them to click on a link to confirm personal or financial information. That’s why it’s critical for Advisors to stay on top of the federal benefits being provided, and how your clients can apply.

Supportive tips to avoid COVID-19 scams

As a helpful tool you can refer to in your conversations, I’ve included a list of the most recently reported frauds, and defensive tactics for your aging clients:

  • Hot stocks – There have been new reports of phone calls pressuring people to invest in hot new stocks, promising “blow-up gains” related to the virus. TIP: Don’t take advice relating to your investment portfolio from an unauthorized person. It’s even wise to consider the use of a private personal code to identify professional counsel.
  • Phishing – Previous scams to glean personal information are being repurposed, with new breeds ranging from emails and/or phone calls from the Public Health Agency of Canada with an update on COVID-19, to those impersonating government bureaus like the CRA to verify eligibility for financial aid. TIP: If you didn’t initiate contact, you don’t know who you’re communicating to, so never give up personal information over the phone, or click on any suspicious links or attachments. If you want to access a legitimate website for updates, manually type the known domain address/URL.
  • Charitable giving fraud – Either via phone, online ads, text messages or social media, scammers are pressuring people to make donations to a bogus charity to fight coronavirus, asking consumers to make payments through a secure digital wallet. TIP: Investigate before you donate. Ensure the charity is registered by checking with your local Better Business Bureau. An easy way to avoid any pressure is to immediately respond with “I make all my contributions at the beginning of the year, but I’ll consider it in the future.”
  • Merchandise scams – Whether door-to-door, over the phone, or online, false product claims are rampant now – from free masks to faster testing kits and decontamination cleaning services to protect against the COVID-19 virus. TIP: Contact the company or service directly to see if they sent a solicitor, or if they created the online advertisement, and be sure to follow the advice of your local health authority with regards to any claims of home decontamination.
  • Miracle cures – Fraudsters looking to monetize on the uncertainty are offering a “miracle oil,” with consumers advised to follow a link. Beware of deceptive ads around “natural” remedies, cleaning products or protective vaccinations offered, which are often couched in a “great conspiracy” to keep treatments away from the public. TIP: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Not only could these treatments be ineffective, but they could also be bad for your health. Follow the guidelines from local authorities, and personal healthcare practioners.
  • Emergency scams – CAFC has received reports of emails from friends/family asking for funds to help with medical bills associated with the virus via email money transfer. TIP: Be suspicious of any unsolicited calls, emails or texts that request urgent action or payment.

If suspected fraud has already taken place, you may be able to help stop the bleeding by advising your clients to immediately contact their bank or financial services provider, and report it to the CAFC. In these scenarios, offering empathy and reassurance can go a long way, with comments like, “it’s easy to click on the wrong link,” and “these scams are designed to hit anybody and everybody, so you’re not alone.” The reality is that any person can be a target, especially during these unprecedented times.

Combating social isolation

While the issue of fraud is a vital focus for seniors and their finances, we should not overlook both the short- and long-term impact of the loss of association, physical contact and community, which is a critical part of the life experience, particularly through later-life transitions. A major problem with the loneliness resulting from the COVID-19 isolation is the uncertainty and fear. How long will the isolation continue? For those in the high-risk, aging category, many may be wondering if they will even see a time when their world will open up again.

During your client calls, consider proactively broaching the conversation, starting from a point of understanding and awareness – and then move to acts of kindness. For example, some of our Advisor members send handwritten cards in the mail to clients, which conveys thoughtfulness and sincerity, and initiates a meaningful connection. Another powerful suggestion is to commit to a regular schedule of calls to create predictability, so your aging clients can look forward to the interaction. It’s even helpful to prepare some uplifting anecdotes/jokes ahead of time, or memories you can revisit to express appreciation for your relationship.

Growing your business with integrity

Social isolation and fraud, while exacerbated during the pandemic, are among the many concerns that impact seniors – crisis or not. Having trained thousands of Advisors under the CPCA designation since 2003, we know the content – which covers the health, social, legal and financial aspects of aging – is a natural fit for the industry. This is especially true as Boomer clients transition to the next stage of life, with more than 5 million Canadians set to turn 65 this decade.3 Owing to greater life expectancy and spending power, there is a trillion dollar “longevity economy” that’s operating worldwide. To participate, Advisors must earn the right by creating an elevated experience for the aging marketplace – and make seniors feel valued instead of invisible. Not only will it bolster revenues, but it will do so from a place of integrity and service. Eventually, your aging clients will say that not only do you know about financial products and services, you also know about them. I often hear from our members that the ability to move from success to significance – and have that kind of community impact – makes it all worthwhile for them.

To gain more valuable insights, practice management ideas and business-building tools, contact your BMO Global Asset Management Regional Sales Representative.

1 Faiza Amin, “Coronavirus scams targeting seniors on the rise,” CityNews, April 17, 2020.

2 Government of Canada, Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, May 25, 2020.

3 “Ok, boomer! The future for Canada’s soon-to-retire demographic,” CBC Radio, January 21, 2020.

Any statement that necessarily depends on future events may be a forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of performance. They involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Although such statements are based on assumptions that are believed to be reasonable, there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations. Investors are cautioned not to rely unduly on any forward-looking statements. In connection with any forward-looking statements, investors should carefully consider the areas of risk described in the most recent simplified prospectus.

This article is for information purposes. The information contained herein is not, and should not be construed as, investment, tax or legal advice to any party. Investments should be evaluated relative to the individual’s investment objectives and professional advice should be obtained with respect to any circumstance.

BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name that comprises BMO Asset Management Inc., BMO Investments Inc., BMO Asset Management Corp., BMO Asset Management Limited and BMO’s specialized investment management firms.

®/™Registered trade-marks/trade-mark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

* As compared to an investment that generates an equivalent amount of interest income.

®/™Registered trademarks/trademark of Bank of Montreal, used under licence.

BMO Global Asset Management is a brand name under which BMO Asset Management Inc. and BMO Investments Inc. operate. Certain of the products and services offered under the brand name, BMO Global Asset Management are designed specifically for various categories of investors in a number of different countries and regions and may not be available to all investors. Products and services are only offered to such investors in those countries and regions in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of Bank of Montreal (BMO).

BMO ETFs are managed and administered by BMO Asset Management Inc., an investment fund manager and portfolio manager and separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal. Commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investments in exchange traded funds. Please read the prospectus before investing.

Exchange traded funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated.

BMO Mutual Funds are managed by BMO Investments Inc., which is an investment fund manager and a separate legal entity from Bank of Montreal.

Commissions, trailing commissions (if applicable), management fees and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Please read the ETF facts, fund facts or prospectus of the relevant mutual fund before investing. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated.

For a summary of the risks of an investment in the BMO Mutual Funds, please see the specific risks set out in the prospectus. ETF Series of the BMO Mutual Funds trade like stocks, fluctuate in market value and may trade at a discount to their net asset value, which may increase the risk of loss. Distributions are not guaranteed and are subject to change and/or elimination.

BMO Life Assurance Company is the issuer of the BMO Segregated Funds individual variable insurance contract referred to in the Information Folder and the guarantor of any guarantee provisions therein. The BMO GIF Information Folder and Policy Provisions provide full details and govern in all cases. BMO GIF products are offered through BMO Life Assurance, a separate legal entity than BMO Global Asset Management and wholly owned by BMO Financial Group. Segregated funds are only available for sale by individuals with appropriate insurance licences and are not considered a mutual fund. Segregated fund fees are higher than mutual funds as they include insurance fees to provide for the guarantees on deposits at maturity or on death.

Legal and regulatory disclosures

This information is for Investment Advisors only. By accepting, you certify that you are an Investment Advisor. If you are NOT an Investment Advisor, please decline and view the content in the Investor or Institutional areas of the site. The website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide a complete description of BMO Global Asset Management’s products or services. Past performance is not indicative of future results. It should not be construed as investment advice or relied upon in making an investment decision. Products and services of BMO Global Asset Management are only offered in jurisdictions where they may be lawfully offered for sale. The information contained in this Website does not constitute an offer or solicitation by anyone to buy or sell any investment fund or other product, service or information to anyone in any jurisdiction in which an offer or solicitation is not authorized or cannot be legally made or to any person to whom it is unlawful to make an offer of solicitation. All products and services are subject to the terms of each and every applicable agreement. It is important to note that not all products, services and information are available in all jurisdictions outside Canada.