This pandemic has highlighted just how quickly life can change for individuals, families and businesses alike. It’s easy to review the many ways COVID-19 has negatively impacted our society and altered the trajectory of people’s health, finances, careers, social activities and even family traditions. But oddly enough, the pandemic has also served as a catalyst for several surprisingly positive changes in our industry. Some may be short lived, but others are here to stay.
When the pandemic first hit, businesses were forced to ask employees to work from home. At first, it resulted in a mad scramble as employees learned to adapt to new operating procedures and new technology tools. The biggest challenge for many was having to share limited work-space with spouses and kids who were also working or schooling from home.
Now, 18 months later things have gotten easier and the vast majority of advisory practices have settled into what is often referred to as “the new normal,” meaning everyone is getting comfortable with some combination of work from home (“WFH”) and partially working from the office. What is emerging is the realization that the pandemic as prompted and accelerated many trends that were already moving forward in our industry, albeit at a snails’ pace. Below is a short summary of the trends and changes easily observed within advisory practices, in terms of operating models, technology deployments, new products/services and changing client needs.
Technology to the rescue.
I am truly amazed at how quickly the entire advice business adapted so quickly, not only to virtual client meetings, but to operating their entire business remotely. Even meeting with wholesalers and other strategic partners have been accomplished virtually. This success could not have happened if existing technology was not already available to support this new operating model.
- Working from home is here to stay. In short, the pandemic served to validate the WFH business model and accelerate its acceptance. This growing trend will likely benefit both employees and employers in the long run. For the employee, it demonstrates they can live almost anywhere there is Wi-Fi, and work for a business that’s local as easily as one thousands of miles away. The proven concept of “remote work” is just as attractive for employers as well, and allows them to seek-out the best talent available in the marketplace regardless of where they reside. It opens the door to a universe of potential new hires, including stay-at-home parents and new retirees who would welcome the opportunity to perform purposeful work from their homes.
- Clients have embraced virtual meetings. Initially, many Baby Boomer clients were hesitant about having financial review meetings virtually. But, as time passed and everyone became comfortable with the technology, all parties saw the clear advantages. Now, most clients have come to accept and even prefer the concept of virtual meeting. For advisors, it means the time is right to consider expanding the footprint of their business to a wider audience. Why restrict marketing campaigns to just a local market when a receptive audience might be found anywhere. Specialty or niche practices could benefit exponentially.
- New momentum for succession and continuity planning. Not only are business clients more motivated to plan for their own succession and continuity as a result of the pandemic, advisors are too. No longer does an advisor’s continuity partner or successor need to be within a 50-mile radius of his/her office. Again, this opens-up new opportunities for all involved.
- A newfound appreciation for estate planning. We have all seen the daily news recounting the number of recent COVID-19 deaths. Consequently, clients have become more keenly aware of their own mortality. This heightened awareness has resulted in a sense of urgency for many clients to finally get their estate planning documents in order. Fear of the pandemic has been the major impetus for motivating clients to work with their advisor and complete this task.
- New opportunities in ESG/sustainable investing. The pandemic has also made most of us more aware of how interconnected our world has become. As part of the global community, we are dealing with diseases that respect no borders, the phenomenon of global warming, a growing health threat from air and water pollution, and a host of social justice issues. Clients have taken notice and have newfound interest is sustainable investing. This is true across all age groups and presents a growing opportunity for those advisors who are addressing this rapidly expanding trend.
Despite COVID-19’s many hardships and challenges, its impact has actually helped our industry set the stage for better things to come. We were forced to adapt to harsh new realities and in the process, we learned a lot about what’s possible. Although, we are still at the beginning of this new journey, we are confident in our new tools and processes that enable us to adapt and thrive and continue to serve our clients well.