Three pandemic trends we should hold onto

Digital transformation has been in play for years; however, the consensus among the many business leaders I’ve spoken with is that the remote work and engagement caused by COVID have exponentially accelerated technology.

In less than a year, the pandemic has moved most of our economy online, driven dramatic changes in behavior and quickened openness and adoption of engagement through digital channels. Indeed, while many of the technologies we’ve quickly come to rely on during our current work from home era video-conferencing, interoffice communication platforms, e-signatures have been around for years, they’re now essential.

Even those who are more risk- and tech-averse or reticent about embracing digital are doing so now out of necessity. Technology has played a hero’s role in helping to reach customers, maintain operational resilience and facilitate company cohesion and purpose.

During this time of continued change and uncertainty, it’s crucial to look at how CEOs and other leaders in the industry are successfully managing their teams through this difficult era of both challenges and opportunities.

Drawing on my own experiences as CEO of a fintech platform, and conversations I’ve had with other industry leaders, I can point to three pandemic trends that are enabling business leaders to realize impressive progress and results while away from the office and mobilize their 2021 and beyond growth strategies.

1. Technology adoption is accelerating and leaders need to help make it work. As I noted, technology solutions like Zoom and Slack are not new, but they are now being utilized more commonly and for a wider variety of purposes. Video-conferencing, for instance, used to be reserved for occasional business meetings that could not be attended in person by all participants. Right now, we’re using it for all meetings, including new hire interviews and onboarding, client introductions and a variety of other engagements. In a recent conversation with my colleagues in the wealth management industry, there was broad agreement that the pandemic had moved technology adoption ahead by about 10 years. As an executive fintech leader, it’s my job to ensure that we have the leading technology to generate efficiency and accelerate productivity.

2. Flexibility is being expanded while boundaries are being drawn and respected by management. Work from home has been a big adjustment for many people. Forward-looking, and importantly, empathetic leaders are realizing the productivity gains of granting employees more discretion over their own work/life balance and giving employees license to manage their schedules. At the same time, work from home can have the opposite effect: blurring or erasing the boundaries between work and one’s personal life, leading to a scenario in which employees are expected to always be on-call, often well outside the traditional 9-to-5 workday.

At Tegra118, we encourage employees to set aside personal and “wellness” time. Firms and, more specifically, managers need to respect boundaries to prevent employee burnout. I’ve heard from many leaders in the industry that they’re taking similar steps to avoid these pitfalls of working from home and crafting a new framework for more flexible working arrangements to carry over to a (hopefully, soon) post-COVID world.

3. Client relations are being updated for the digital age. A key theme of recent conversations has been that while virtual client communications have often been a learning curve, the current state of affairs has been a vital opportunity to update the way advisers communicate with clients. One of the big topics we’ve been discussing over the years is the rise of millennial (and now Gen Z) investors and how advisers, who are often older, can successfully engage with them. Because the pandemic has turbo-charged virtual technology and connections, the adviser community across age groups is learning how to be “digitally native.” Additionally, advisers are learning more about how to find new clients via digital means, scaling business outreach efforts well beyond personal contacts, and saving time and money in the process.

The COVID-19 pandemic will end, and there are changes that have been brought about that will be temporary. However, there are many positive trends at the moment that should be embraced and encouraged by leaders. We operate in an increasingly competitive space and industry, and the technology adoption and rewriting of work rules and expectations now occurring, if properly navigated and implemented, can help firms gain a competitive advantage. Now is the time to seize the initiative and make lasting change within our companies. 

[More: RIA valuations holding up despite pandemic and firms paying more up front]

Cheryl Nash is CEO of Tegra118.

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