These initial conversations were also about ensuring clients “knew that we were still here”, she notes, and that it was “business as usual — or as close as we could get to it”.
The company had seen the lockdown coming and began reducing the number of staff in the office prior to the UK government’s official announcement in March, which meant that systems and technology had been tested remotely.
“By coincidence, we had moved our client database and all our software to a cloud-based system last May. That means we can all access it in a secure way, and the data remains secure — that’s really important at the moment,” she adds.
One of the lessons the company has learned from the pandemic is that clients are “more open to different ways to communicate”, whether that is via access to an online portal, secure email or phone meetings.
“We have used some of the virtual video software, but not everybody is comfortable with that.”
Ms Markham admits she spends much of her day on the phone and does not see that changing in the near future.
“We’ll want to get back to face-to-face eventually, but only when it’s right and only when people feel comfortable to do so.”
Value of advice
One of the observations Ms Markham makes is that FH Manning’s existing clients were less worried about their finances than the individuals who came to them via the free phone service.
“A lot of our clients have been with us for a very long time and while they have not been through this before, they have been through other falls in the stock market and economic issues. They were more focused on what’s going on out there rather than their finances and trusted that we were keeping an eye on it,” she points out.
The pandemic and ensuing crisis has demonstrated where advisers can really add value, she believes.
“Our clients have had a very different experience, from a financial point of view, of this crisis, knowing they have someone to turn to, rather than people who haven’t [had an adviser to talk to].”
Ms Markham notes that plenty of data and research has shown there is a lack of trust in financial advisers and a perception that the industry tries to sell products.
“But, ultimately, I think if you’ve had a financial adviser, particularly at a time like this, you realise that’s not what the industry is like at all, and we are there to really support people and offer them a service.”