What does the future of work look like? Will we be able to take our jobs, which were once based in London, and do them on a beach in the south of France?
There has been an excess of think pieces on this topic in recent months, and hopefully this will not add to them.
But this question does have consequences for financial advice – indeed any person-to-person profession.
The phrase “face-to-face advice” has often been used to differentiate holistic financial planning from robo-advisers. But in a world where face-to-face advice cannot exist, advisers are increasingly turning to various forms of technology.
It will probably be a while before advisers return to normality – if they ever do. Many clients may not wish to do so while the coronavirus remains in circulation and many advisers may find they don’t mind the increased efficiency the new way of working brings.
This raises questions that advisers have repeatedly been asked to grapple with by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Firstly, what represents good value for money if clients no longer get to meet their adviser face-to-face?
Will questions be raised if advisers are seen to cut their own costs by becoming more efficient without passing that on to the client? Betting against that seems unwise.
And secondly, how can advisers make sure they are providing a service that doesn’t disadvantage those who might be deemed vulnerable?
The FCA has made it very clear how importantly it is taking the issue of vulnerable clients, but this is a two-way street.
One of the ways to help vulnerable clients is to help advisers support them, by making sure advisers aren’t struggling with ever-rising regulatory bills or premiums.
Doing one without the other is like trying to work from the south of France with a dial-up internet connection. You won’t get very far very fast.