The coronavirus crisis upended everything advisors understood about their daily lives and businesses. You had to quickly react to ease rising client concerns, follow orders to shut down physical operations, and accommodate a suddenly remote workforce. There was no time for planning or adjusting. No playbook to follow. But after a few uncertain months, positive lessons learned from the pandemic have started to emerge—and they are likely to affect how you operate, develop teams, and work going forward.
Want more fresh perspectives? Join our community by subscribing to the Commonwealth Independent Advisor.
Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans Are a Necessity
Before COVID-19, many advisors had no idea a stay-at-home order could affect the way they do business to the extent it did. Now, you can’t ignore the importance of ensuring limited or no business interruption, no matter the situation. This disruption has become 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.
Working Remotely Is Doable (and Productive)
The transition from being in the office to working remotely wasn’t easy. Challenges included finding the right technology, communicating with clients, and helping the team feel like, well, a team. By working through these challenges, many have learned to function at an even higher level and realized they could remain tightly connected to their teams and clients, even from a distance. 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 connected and 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 some balance, both personally and professionally.
Clients Are Open to New Ways of Connecting
Like many advisors, you likely had to get creative when clients were concerned about market volatility and other 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, as were videos and other media that could convey the intangibles. 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 remotely by making the most of online tools that create a more technology-driven experience for younger clients. You could also use this time to focus on truly understanding your clients and using behavioral finance techniques to help steer them past emotions, so they can make informed decisions.
The Ideal Workspace Has Taken Shape
When you first designed your office space, creating a memorable client experience was likely top of mind. The artwork, the beverage options, and the chairs were all carefully chosen and arranged. 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 common areas where staff and advisors eat and gather at the proverbial water cooler
Online Tools Can Make Training Quicker and Easier
Onboarding new employees without the benefit of being together meant training and development had to be reimagined. Online tools and resources have made it easier—and quicker. Many of us realized the onboarding process can now occur weeks before a new employee’s start date, and the work can be taught in a dynamic way.
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 create scale, something that can benefit all advisors and staff.
Self-Care Should Be a Priority
For many, being thrust into working remotely felt isolating. 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. It’s no wonder that many began feeling the effects of compassion fatigue—the burnout we experience as caregivers that can be detrimental to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
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. But, 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 Next Generation (Still) Awaits
With some colleges and universities moving to a remote learning environment for the foreseeable future, many students will be seeking year-round internships. Your ability to attract this next generation could be a competitive advantage when it comes to growth and succession planning. To do this right, you’ll need to invest your time and creativity to connect and collaborate with them.
When cultivating the intern experience, integrate both in-person (when possible) and online training regimens that fit and reinforce each other. Here’s a chance to hire, train, and develop interns for work that can be accomplished remotely, while giving them an opening into our industry. This second point is critical. As a result of the pandemic, some advisors are considering retiring sooner than originally planned. It’s never too early to bring the next generation into the fold to allow for proper training and development.
Be Prepared for Whatever Comes Next
The uncertainty we faced for months has gradually shifted to a new normal or, perhaps, the next normal. We will continue to learn, led by innovation, technology, and new and improved ways of working. There’s no doubt we will have more obstacles to overcome, but the positive lessons learned from the pandemic will help prepare your office for this next normal and beyond.
What other positive lessons learned from the pandemic would you add to this list? Please share your thoughts with us below.
This post was co-authored by David Israel, director, field outreach, practice management.
Please consult your member firm’s policies regarding outside applications prior to utilizing the platforms discussed.