Winners and losers…judgement day for slow adaptors

To say that business operating models have come under pressure over the past couple of months is an understatement. Across financial services specifically, the need to move rapidly to a home working model was not something anyone had predicted happening overnight.

Now we have settled in to the idea that it’s still likely to be months before we can resume life as it was at the start of 2020, the need to review how we work and what is sustainable has never been more pressing.

For advisers, the fact that face-to-face meetings with clients are likely to remain a virtual reality has both upsides and downsides. Many advisers regard meeting with clients at their home or in the firm’s offices as a key part of relationship building – and something clients value highly.

Articulating the value of advice to clients is something many advisers will be thinking about as they scope out what their business model will look like in the future. If that’s what you are doing now, you’ll find our latest white paper, The Insiders’ Guide to the Value of Advice, useful.

But there’s another issue that’s worth considering: how have advisers been served by their own suppliers?

Which providers have stepped up to the challenges?

Advisers rely on a wide range of third-party providers and how they perform directly impacts on the way advisers are judged by their own clients. If delays occur because a provider hasn’t been able to deliver, it’s the advisers who are in the frame when it comes to dealing with the fallout.

One large provider – who shall remain nameless but I’m sure many advisers will know who I mean – applied a 30-day response time on their business, making it impossible for advisers to swiftly react to their clients’ needs.

So, for advisers who are looking at their future business models, it’s worth reviewing how your providers have performed. Who has stepped up and provided excellent service and who has struggled?

Speaking with advisers, it’s clear there are some clear winners and losers. Whether large or small, some businesses have been able to adapt swiftly while others have struggled.

Does size matter?

It’s easy to assume that large corporations should have the infrastructure to cope with business change but, in reality, huge operations that have been geared up to working in a set way can find change most difficult. A bit like getting a juggernaut to turn in a narrow street, it can be a slow process with no guarantees it will happen without damage to the vehicle itself, or the external environment.

Multi-layered management, share-holder pressure on profits and, most crucially, weak leadership at the top, can mean adapting a business to meet changing external circumstances can be complex and painful for all involved.

Short-term focus on profits to please shareholders is one of the biggest pitfalls for large corporations, often limiting investment in infrastructure such as technology or hindering the ability to consider worst case scenarios and plan for them properly, with the correct resources and people in place.

Of course, some large corporations have responded really well. These are the firms where leadership is strong. Having a robust leadership team is the difference between a good company and a great one.

The great ones are those that have the foresight to plan for the worst, the ability to make decisions that put their customers first and the courage to act differently and adapt.

As we reflect on what the future may hold, it will be time well spent considering which organisations have responded well and which have not. For those that have not, it may be time for advisers to have the courage to make their own changes, to ensure they are only working with those they know they can rely on in a crisis.