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Hybrid working key for advisers to manage influx of clients

Ben Goss

Ben Goss

Recent years have provided people with many triggers to seek financial advice for the first time, and 2022 was no exception. The war in Ukraine brought a swift end to hopes of calmer economic and market conditions in the wake of the pandemic.

As spiralling inflation rattled markets, put pressure on household budgets and sparked steep rises in interest rates, investors weighed tough choices: pay off the mortgage or save more for an uncertain future? Stick with sterling holdings or diversify overseas?   

The recent Dynamic Planner Spotlight Report, published in December, points to a sharp rise in people seeking advice in the pandemic and post-pandemic period.

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Close to two-thirds of advice firms of all sizes – and almost 90 per cent of large firms – have seen an increase in new client enquiries over the past three years. 

With existing clients also needing more support in volatile market conditions, firms may historically have struggled to digest such an influx.

However, advice firms have reaped a huge productivity dividend in the form of the shift in working models accelerated by the pandemic, changing the picture dramatically. 

In the 2021 survey, the vast majority of firms expected to retain the hybrid – online and face-to-face – approaches they had adopted during Covid, and that has been borne out. In 2022, more than three-quarters of firms were delivering the majority of their advice through either hybrid or fully online models. 

As well as video calling, advisers are making use of online tools for aspects of the advice process, with risk and sustainability profiling, in particular, increasingly likely to be completed remotely.

Unsurprisingly given the productivity gains, technology is viewed as a near-universal positive in the industry, with 88 per cent of survey respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that it is improving their ability to serve clients. 

In the past, the need to factor in travel time has been a hard limit on client numbers. With that time taken out of the equation, or at least markedly reduced, advisers have been able to accommodate many of the new advice seekers.

Three-quarters of firms are servicing more clients than they were three years ago, and the proportion of advisers servicing more than 200 clients has grown significantly in a single year, from 16 per cent in 2021 to 24 per cent in 2022. 

Larger client bases do not appear to be coming at the expense of morale: advisers are happy in their work, with a massive 87 per cent saying they would recommend their career path to others. As a result, the increase in clients served appears to be sustainable. 

This is news that should be welcomed by the regulator, given the focus on closing the advice gap. The Financial Conduct Authority wants to see more people who can afford to do so investing their money in line with their risk appetite, focusing on the 4.2mn consumers with £10,000 or more in investable assets currently sitting in cash.