The past fifteen months have been some of the most challenging our industry has experienced, but as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic it’s hard not to reflect on how it has not affected everyone equally.
Whilst some of our clients have experienced huge losses both personally and financially, others have experienced significant financial gains. Those very different journeys have got me thinking about how our approach to the service and support we provide has changed in the past fifteen months.
At the start of the pandemic with the markets experiencing volatility we had not seen in over a decade; high levels of frequent communications were key to reassure and support our customers. Financial advisers and investors alike were keen to understand not just the impact of the pandemic in financial terms on their portfolios, but the support and service companies could provide during those uncertain times of the first few weeks of lockdown. As an industry overall, I was really impressed by how we took our often very traditional approach to customer services, requiring things like wet signatures or face to face meetings in order to transact, and pivoted to embrace digital onboarding and video based communications in ways many of us had never done before and in timescales we never thought possible to meet our customers changing needs.
I was captivated by how positive the feedback we received was from our early communications and what it meant to our customers who had really embraced our support. However, as the weeks continued the markets lost some of that early volatility and as digital adoption accelerated, we started to witness a shift in feedback about what clients wanted from their providers. Whilst the high levels of digital communications at the start of the pandemic were useful and provided reassurance about the markets and that investments were under safe stewardship, we were seeing a re-emergence of the need for a more personalised approach. In October 2020 we conducted client research which focused on two key areas; intergenerational wealth planning and what clients valued, which were addressed in the Book of Stories 2.0. Our research showed us that one of the top three things clients valued was being prompted to take action. Alongside this, clients really valued being able to ask questions and receiving advice that may have seemed obvious to others and previously in less unusual times, they may have resisted. With a newfound efficiency brought on by digital engagement, clients were able to ask more questions and receive increased frequency of contact which helped them make better informed decisions.
The shift from physical meetings to virtual meetings, meant that clients and advisers alike could take advantage of the fact that short meetings could be arranged in a matter of day to discuss planning or investment objectives, which previously could have taken a few weeks to arrange. Alongside the ease and speed of arranging virtual meetings and the time saved, clients have also reported on the environmental benefits that have arisen from not having to travel for meetings to take place.