Financial advisers and social distancing

08 April, 2020Juno Baker

Adapting to the new reality of homeworking and social distancing is a challenge for all of us. Here are some suggestions on staying in touch with clients, adapting your workload, and preparing yourself and your company for when things get back to normal.

Plant and laptop in a windowHomeworking and lockdown have presented the financial advice industry with a huge cultural change. No more home visits or welcoming clients into the firm’s office. No more wet signatures. Very suddenly, we’ve all had to adapt.

The industry has got to get used to doing business remotely and fortunately we live in a technological age. There are stacks of remote systems out there – including Zoom, Teams, Asana and more – many with plugins that schedule video meetings and calls.

Granted, you may miss out on those water cooler moments and the kitchen chats where people come up with great ideas. But at least you can keep in touch with colleagues and keep the business running.

Homeworking isn’t the only area where you have to become more adaptable.

As we all know, the markets are behaving like never before. Processes in the wider financial services world are slower than usual, and we’re having to be more patient and more flexible.

How to talk to clients

The good news is your clients will understand that things might take a little longer than usual. Because of course you can explain the situation to them. You may not be able to visit them, or invite them to your office, but you can still pick up the phone. You could also ask them if they’d like to Skype.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that your clients will be averse to using technology. This is unlikely to be true for most, even the elderly, as a lot of people use Skype nowadays to stay in touch with family.

And seeing someone’s face – and letting them see yours – builds trust and reassurance.

If you or some of your clients find this kind of technology a challenge, there are plenty of online explainers and YouTube videos to get you going.

If you’re in a position to help clients with it, they’ll appreciate you for going the extra mile. It will help build the relationship. And, when you take into account the time you’re saving on travel, you’re not really losing anything.

In this strange new reality, many clients – like all of us – will be feeling anxious or emotional. They may have had difficult conversations with loved ones, possibly for the first time. They may be nervous about what’s happening in their family and on the markets.

Helping clients to see where they’re at

Some clients will want to revisit their family protection arrangements, or they may be anxious about their current investments.

You’ll need to reassess your clients’ income and expenditure. To help them visualise how their investments might look at the end of all this, use ‘cashflow modelling’.

Show them the modelling and talk them through it. Let them see what their situation looks like, talk about their different options and calm their nerves. These are tough conversations.

But this is also an opportunity to spend time with clients – even if it is online.

And it’s at times of crisis that we see how much of an edge a human financial adviser has over robo-advice. Being more than a set of algorithms is a huge advantage when you’re dealing with people who need reassurance and help.

You’re able to listen, digest, consider, sympathise, offer an informed opinion and reassurance. You can help people to get a picture of the other side of this crisis.

The real skill is to be candid and sensitive, while reassessing and potentially putting a new plan in place to achieve clients’ financial goals.

How to stay on top of your CPD

Like Glastonbury Festival and the London Marathon, conferences and other events for financial advisers have been either cancelled or postponed.

That presents the problem of where and how to clock up hours for your continued professional development (CPD).

The financial press and others continue to offer ongoing CPD and events you can attend virtually.

A good tip is to start thinking about where you want to be on the other side of this. Do you want to be offering more specialist advice? Do you want to be Level 6 qualified? Or learn more about equity release?

We will come out of this, and so will the economy. And when we do, you want to be in good shape to support your clients and your business. CPD is key to that.

Your customers may have unexpected debts or new expenses. It may be their investments yield less income than before or that they want to help family financially.

If you've been doing your CPD and deepening your knowledge, you will be better placed to help them.

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