Adviser diary: Working from Italy

Adviser diary: Working from Italy

Damian Fantato speaks to advisers about how their businesses are adapting to the coronavirus crisis. Today Brian Hill, managing director at Jones Hill, discusses the challenges for his firm.

Our position is a little bit different in that I live in Italy and return to the UK for one week a month to see clients.

Those meetings in March and April were cancelled but the meetings still went ahead online because for the last two years we have been working remotely three quarters of the time anyway, with Zoom and electronic files.

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There has been nothing new for us, and all it has done is bring more clients onto Zoom who hadn't done it before. Most of them like it - it is quicker than email.

We are still acquiring new clients without having met them, through the normal routes. But they recognise there is slim to no chance of meeting a financial adviser face to face.

The sort of people we work with are invariably fairly mobile. A large part are going through divorce and that waits for no man.

My normal working day is relatively unchanged. I sent the staff home two weeks ago, before it started getting serious in the UK and they did that without any interruption. We use technology a lot so are chatting all day, albeit electronically.

My social life is now all on Zoom and WhatsApp which is actually quite cool in many ways.

Our clients are very stoic and pragmatic. The average age is 60. I would say we probably had calls from four or five and they are clients that, in the main, joined us in the last 12 months so aren't used to the education piece that we do.

The question is should we do anything about that and the answer is that if the plan hasn't changed, then we don't change.

We sent them a couple of emails sharing our view on what's happening and we have had more clients contacting us asking us how we are doing, more concerned about us than their investments.

The biggest thing has been the lack of digital readiness by the providers. I still don't understand why in this day and age they can't process things without wet signatures.

If you can get your driving licence online and set up a direct debit online no one has yet explained to me the reason that providers haven't completed this yet.

It slows the whole system up. We know electronic signatures are legal tender, so to speak, and it provides a robust audit trail.