Delivering financial advice in a Covid-19 environment
When Boris Johnson announced the UK lockdown back in March, Wren Sterling initiated its business continuity plan, which included transitioning to working from home and communicating with clients through remote methods, while drastically reducing our printing and postage activity.
It could be argued that these measures would have become more of a part of our way of working anyway but the suddenness of lockdown brought it all forward dramatically.
As we move into a world where some people are comfortable meeting in a public space, others are shielding, or know someone who is shielding, there won’t be a one size fits all approach and we’re working towards a way of being able to advise people in a way that keeps them and our advisers safe, but also provides the reassurance and peace of mind that clients are used to receiving.
Clients value the option to speak to their adviser and the “little and often” approach is becoming more popular
What do our clients think?
We surveyed 600 of our clients to find out how they feel about meeting their adviser in the future. The results reflected the polarised attitudes we’ve seen in society, with some clients saying they’re very comfortable meeting their adviser either at home or in our offices, with the required social distancing and Covid-secure processes in place (masks, washing hands etc). Conversely, roughly the same amount of those surveyed were very uncomfortable both at home and in the office.
Interestingly, those that had received advice via telephone or video are 25% more likely to want to continue that than those who have not.
What do financial advisers think?
Survey results on the impact of the lockdown on working patterns and attitudes towards social interaction are starting to appear and they indicate that a long-term shift to working from home and more permanent use of telephony and video conferencing.
In a piece of research conducted by Fidelity Funds Network, advisers considered their current working practices and their expectations of how that would change. As you can see below, there’s a big move towards online as a way of gathering information, with the more visual or emotive aspects of the financial advice experience, such as fact-finding and goal setting more likely to be done face to face.
How will we approach things in the future?
This period has caused us to reflect on what clients see as the value in Wren Sterling’s service. There’s no doubt that physical interaction with a financial adviser and the recommendations that come afterwards are a great comfort to many clients. However, in a world where that is harder to do, we’re focused on making sure that peace of mind can be achieved through other channels.
What we know to be true is that clients value the option to speak to their adviser and the “little and often” approach is becoming more popular – it’s also easier to do now through technology. It is never more important than in a period of financial and societal instability. During the early stages of lockdown, we issued a number of email communications with comment pieces from our investment manager partners and the feedback we received was that people were glad to hear a trusted voice in a difficult period, so we will continue to do this in future.
We’re keen to make sure that however the advice is delivered, our priority is to make sure everyone is safe and receiving the advice they need. We don’t want to postpone necessary changes to a financial advice strategy because the meeting cannot be conducted face to face.
For the time being, we’re asking advisers to conduct meetings via telephone or video conferencing (using Skype or Microsoft Teams). Where this isn’t possible for our clients, risk assessments will be carried out and decisions made accordingly.
We will continue to invest in technology and the most client-friendly way of doing business that we can, with safety always our paramount consideration.
We talk a lot about financial planning overcoming bumps in the road and clients being blown off course by unexpected events. Global pandemics count as more than a bump in the road but we’ve shown that we can continue to provide our service in the most testing of circumstances, so thank you to every client who has made adjustments in 2020.