How can advisers build their business in the remote working era?

This article is part of
Guide to advice after the pandemic

How can advisers build their business in the remote working era?

Coronavirus and the lockdown has forced businesses to adapt to a new way of working.

Phil Deeks, a director within KPMG’s EMA risk and regulatory insights centre, says one of the biggest themes that has emerged out of the crisis has been the need for firms to digitise certain parts of their businesses. 

Mr Deeks adds: “Advisers are no exception to this, and the crisis will have accelerated the movement towards more effective and convenient solutions to deliver their service. 

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“Many client interactions, for example the annual review process, can reasonably be done remotely, and clients are happy to engage over video conferencing.”

Saying that, Mr Deeks adds that an implication of Covid-19 may be that firms will start developing charging models that move away from purely ad valorem charging. 

“This is because revenue generation purely linked to ‘assets under advice' can be materially impacted when large negative market performance occurs,” he adds.

Improved IT skills

For advisers like Sebastian Riemann, financial consultant at Libra Financial Planning, remote working has helped improve his IT skills, although it will not stop him doing face-to-face consultations.

Mr Riemann says: “I have had to drag myself into the 21st century using Zoom, Microsoft Teams and all sorts. That’s where the most significant change going forward, will come from. 

“Using that kind of technology to improve customer experience does not actually change what we do very much. 

“I do most of my business face-to-face and I intend on doing that going forward, but I can do initial discussions and prep work using those systems. They have lots of positives, but it is not a complete substitute for doing the advice face-to-face.”

Ian McKenna, founder of FTRC adds: “We are seeing huge increases in adoption of virtual meetings and particularly some of the more sophisticated virtual meetings embedded in practice management systems, and far more use of client portals.”

For some advisers remote working has meant they can serve clients better.

Protection specialist Ian Sawyer, commercial director at Assured Futures, says: “We can have more flexible working; have people part office working, part home working, which in practice can give better cover at weekends and evenings.”

“Enquiry levels are down and we have spare capacity, so we are putting some of our team members, far more onto retention, making sure if people are cancelling we are getting hold of them and understanding their issues."

Provider adaptation

As advisers do not exist in isolation, the efficiency of their business is affected by the provider they use.

And in this period some providers have invited criticism for their inability to adapt to the changed circumstances.

Darren Cooke, a chartered financial planner at Red Circle Financial Planning, says: "Some providers were already [making improvements pre-Covid-19] and accelerated, but the ones who were not have generally acted badly and you still can't do stuff with them online."