With the first tentative steps being taken to open the UK for business after the Covid-19 lockdown, it seems like a good time to reflect on what impact the past weeks have had on the advice business in general.
I speak to a lot of advisers so my reflections are based on anecdotal evidence, not science, but there are two clear messages I’m hearing.
The first is that nothing that has gone before has prepared them for what this pandemic has created. This is something we’re all experiencing of course, but it’s interesting to hear the challenges that advisers have faced – and continue to face – in particular.
Keeping the team together while apart
Aside from interacting with clients, which I’ll come onto in a moment, a major challenge has been the shift for all staff to need to work from home. Even small firms usually have support staff coming into a shared environment some of the time, so having to structure the business to allow staff to operate remotely has been a significant added pressure – and not just from a business point of view.
Advisers are used to coaching and mentoring clients through difficult life stages that can impact finances, but less familiar with the need to manage the emotional ups and downs of staff who are working in isolation and perhaps having to deal with difficult home dynamics. Being able to balance the business needs while keeping the team together and in good mental shape is a completely new challenge for the majority.
The remote adviser/client relationship is alive and well
The second major thing that has struck me is the way the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for advisers to have rewarding interaction with clients without having to sit together face-to-face.
Many advisers have known this is the way forward but have struggled to encourage clients to adopt it. With clients using technology such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime and WhatsApp to engage with family and friends, it’s a natural transition for them to use the same sort of technology to speak with their advisers too.
As Ben Peele highlighted in his blog of 6 May, technology has delivered a life line for business in so many ways and we may find that video conferencing is a communication channel that remains in use long after the pandemic is over.
Populating the remote meetings with technology-driven reports is also enabling clear and concise conversations to happen that help to maintain composure and prevent well thought out plans being ruined by emotional knee jerk reactions by clients.
So, as we face the prospect that this virus to likely to remain a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and work out strategies for creating a new ‘normal’, it’s clear the challenges are not over yet. However, while change is never easy, it can bring benefits.
The main challenge is being able to capitalise on these benefits and come out fitter, stronger and ready for a brighter future.