Advisers ready for permanent change as crisis persists

Advisers ready for permanent change as crisis persists

Advisers, providers and platforms have committed to furthering their work revolutions even once a return to offices materialises, with business leaders predicting a “new normal” is here to stay.

As the UK enters its eighth week of national lockdown, preparations are being made across the financial services sector for what life might look like on the other side of the coronavirus crisis, after months of working from home.

Advisers are embracing what many see as a permanent shift away from face-to-face meetings towards virtual client communication, and have also found other benefits to their new ways of working.

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Nigel Stockton, chief executive of national IFA Ascot Lloyd, said: “Client communication and engagement, operational processes and our marketing have been irrevocably altered.

“We will ask clients how they want to be communicated with in the future – going forward video calls will now be an essential part of our client contact programmes.

“Equally, we are aware that some will still want the option of a face-to-face interview, and we are looking at how we can implement appropriate social distancing inside client’s homes as part of our next operational steps.”

For now, the government is still advising businesses to minimise non-essential travel and use remote tools where possible.

Guidelines released on May 11 say those who can work from home should continue to do so; that face-to-face meetings are kept to a minimum and held outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms where possible; and that social distancing guidelines are enforced inside the office.

Following the “conditional” roadmap out of lockdown revealed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) on May 10, providers, advice companies and platforms told Financial Adviser about their plans for post-pandemic working life.

Despite a mass return to offices seemingly remaining some way off, advice businesses have begun canvassing employees’ opinions on their next steps. For Ascot Lloyd, preparations to return to the office began more than three weeks ago.

The advice company sent a questionnaire to all its 440 members of staff last week asking for their preferred plan of action.

Mr Stockton said returning to the office would be phased and “continued flexibility” was key. All floor plans at the company had been reviewed, and only desks two metres apart would be used, with two of Ascot Lloyd’s 19 offices potentially needing to work using split shifts.

Neil Moles, chief executive of Progeny, agreed the use of video conferencing and virtual communication would become permanent features of future relationships with clients.

The advice boss said video conferencing was particularly useful for companies such as his that provide multiple client services, such as financial planning, tax and legal support, to bring all of a client’s advisers into one virtual ‘room’ at the same time.

Progeny has also trained its personal assistants within the business to offer technical support.

All change for providers

One positive to come out of the coronavirus crisis is that providers have been forced to accelerate changes to processes and practices, such as a move away from wet signatures.