When the coronavirus crisis began, advisors faced many unknowns. Client concerns mounted, physical operations shut down, and entire teams went remote almost overnight. With no playbook to follow, you put in the time to figure out what worked (and what didn’t). And that hard work has certainly paid off. After a few uncertain months, positive lessons have emerged—and they may affect how you operate, develop teams, and work going forward.
Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans Are a Must
In the wake of COVID-19, the importance of ensuring limited or no business interruption, no matter the situation, has become clear. In fact, this disruption has turned into an opportunity for anyone who didn’t have a disaster plan in place. If you fall into this category, think about the defined steps for keeping the firm operational during disruptions, whether a natural disaster occurs or broken pipes force a firm closure.
A Remote Team Can Be a Successful Team
The transition to working remotely had its challenges, including finding the right technology, communicating with clients, and helping the team stay connected. By working through these challenges, many have learned to function at an even higher level and have remained tightly connected to their teams and clients. So, how did they do it?
Creating a structured workday and establishing ongoing methods of communication is a great place to start. For example, you might implement team calls at the beginning and end of each day to help everyone stay informed. Or try daily video check-ins or periodic team huddles. Ideally, the structure should promote a feeling of connection for all and create a cadence to the workweek that will help maintain a personal and professional balance.
Real Messaging Resonates with Clients
You likely had to get creative when clients were concerned about market volatility and current events but face-to-face meetings weren’t possible. Regular check-in emails and Zoom calls in lieu of in-office educational sessions were helpful. Many advisors also got real in their messaging, sharing what they were doing during the crisis, what it was like being home with the kids, and even their favorite hikes. These messages strongly resonated with clients—and some expressed a preference for remote meetings.
As we forge ahead, continue to seek novel ways to engage your clients by using online tools that create a more technology-driven experience for younger clients. You may also use this time to focus on using behavioral finance techniques to help steer them past emotions, so they can make informed decisions.
Safety Should Be a Priority in the Workspace of the Future
When you first designed your office space, creating a memorable client experience was likely top of mind. But as it became clear we could be in this for the long haul, safety took over as the office priority and the planning began. If you’re in the process of putting your own plans together, here are a few possibilities to consider:
- Sparse reception areas, with limited seating that meets social distancing guidelines and no magazines or other reading material available for visitors
- Partition between clients and staff members
- Use of touch-free technology, removing the need to touch door handles, light switches, and other common surfaces
- Rethinking of areas where staff and advisors eat and gather at the proverbial water cooler
Online Tools Offer a Dynamic Training Experience
Online tools provide a quick but dynamic way to onboard new employees. Allego, for example, is an audio and video learning platform that can be used to record content and provide prework, which can be fodder for thought-provoking conversations in Zoom training. Tools like this one can also create scale, something of benefit to advisors and staff alike.
The Next Generation Awaits
With some colleges and universities moving to remote learning, many students will be seeking year-round internships. Your ability to attract this next generation could be a competitive advantage. But to do this right, you’ll need to invest your time and creativity to connect and collaborate with them.
Here’s a chance to train and develop interns for work that can be accomplished remotely, while giving them an opening into the industry. This second point is critical. Because of the pandemic, some advisors are considering retiring sooner than originally planned. As such, it’s never too early to bring the next generation into the fold.
We Can’t Help Others if We Can’t Help Ourselves
In a remote environment, you had to quickly learn how to maintain your client relationships while conducting meetings through Zoom. And then there was the near-universal struggle to balance work and personal lives. Some were grieving the loss of a loved one, while others grieved the loss of what used to be.
These struggles reinforced the importance of taking care of ourselves—because we can’t help others if we can’t help ourselves. Self-care means different things to everyone. For many, it encompasses eating right, exercising regularly, going outside during the day, and getting enough shut-eye. Find which practices work best for you, and encourage your employees to do the same.
The uncertainty we faced for months has gradually shifted to the “next” normal. We will continue to learn, led by innovation, technology, and improved ways of working. There’s no doubt there will be more obstacles to overcome. But the positive lessons learned from the pandemic will help prepare your office for this next normal and beyond.
Angela Sarver is a senior practice management consultant at Commonwealth Financial Network.
This post originally appeared on Commonwealth Independent Advisor, a blog authored by subject-matter specialists at Commonwealth Financial Network®, the nation’s largest privately held Registered Investment Adviser–independent broker/dealer. To subscribe, please visit https://blog.commonwealth.com/.
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