Aegon shuts HQ & advisers turn to Skype: industry responds to coronavirus

Martin Bamford, director of client education at adviser Informed Choice, said the company's response to the coronavirus had been on the agenda at its board meeting this morning (March 13), with an email due to be sent to clients later today. 

Mr Bamford said: "The coronavirus pandemic is clearly a significant issue. We're closely monitoring official guidance and taking necessary measures to protect our staff, their families, and our clients.

"We are asking our team members and our clients to be considerate, and avoid visiting our offices if they display any coronavirus symptoms, including a high temperature or persistent cough."

Informed Choice has hardware and software solutions in place in an effort to ensure business continuity, in case team members are required to self-isolate in the coming weeks, he said.

Mr Bamford added: "In addition, we are offering our clients the alternative to meet with us remotely, via video or phone call, instead of meeting face-to-face.

"We are especially concerned about protecting the health and wellbeing of our older clients, as it appears that coronavirus can be transmitted before symptoms are present.

"Where clients still wish to meet at our offices, we are happy to accommodate these meetings for the time being, but we will be limiting contact to the client and their financial planner, and thoroughly cleaning all surfaces between meetings."

Mr Bamford said staff were "stepping up" their hand-washing and surface cleaning practices and following "good hygiene" when entering or leaving the building and on receipt of deliveries.

Avoiding face-to-face contact should also prove straight-forward at LV, where retirement advice service is telephone-based. 

David Gwyer, media relations manager at LV, said: "All of our advisers have the ability to work from home. We’re still in the office at the moment but are monitoring developments and will follow guidance from government and LV’s business continuity team."

Intermediary-only lender Keystone Property Finance also took "precautionary" measures this week, halting all face to face meetings between its external business development managers and brokers.

The lender said: "The team will instead be offering meetings via video call, as well as being contactable through email and telephone. Our BDMs will also not be attending any large events in an effort to reduce the risk posed to our staff and wider team."

Kay Ingram, director of public policy at advice firm LEBC, said: "We have advance contingency plans in place to maintain the wellbeing of staff and clients and to be able to continue to service client’s needs.

"We will continue to take advice from government agencies as the situation develops."

rachel.mortimer@ft.com, additional reporting by imogen.tew@ft.com

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