Flexible working is here to stay for financial advisers

Flexible working is here to stay for financial advisers

Flexible working is here to stay among the biggest advice players despite government guidance on working from home having changed this month.

With the ‘work from home’ guidance coming to an end on August 1, this week has seen some employers exercising discretion as to the location of their staff for the first time since the UK entered lockdown in March.

But several advice companies, platforms and providers told Financial Adviser working practices that became commonplace during the coronavirus crisis were set to become a permanent feature in the financial services industry.

They included flexible start and finish times, an end to the traditional five-day working week and refurbished headquarters to allow for social distancing and a permanent shift to a new way of working.

Voluntary return and agile working for advisers 

Flexibility and remote meetings are key themes in plans at some of the UK’s biggest advice companies, with St James’s Place, Quilter, Ascot Lloyd and Fairstone all offering ‘agile’ working as part of a phased return to the office.

Advisers will also find socially distanced desks, hand sanitiser stations, one-way systems and personal protective equipment as commonplace.

SJP said all its offices had been risk-assessed to be Covid-secure, with occupancy levels in buildings that had re-opened at 10-12 per cent to ensure social distancing.

The advice giant said it had asked employees to include some days back in the office from August 1 on a voluntary basis.

The SJP spokesperson added: “We are aiming to have most buildings open by early September with occupancy levels at 30 per cent until we receive further guidance from the government.”

Nigel Stockton, chief executive of Ascot Lloyd, said the advice company had not yet mandated any way of working and was currently offering staff the option of working from the office, remotely or a combination of both.

Mr Stockton said: “We are now offering our clients the choice in how they wish to contact us and communicate with us, be it over the phone, via video call or now with face-to-face visits again, while  always ensuring we are strictly adhering to the safety criteria and social distancing.”

At Quilter the majority of employees are continuing to work from home, but a small number have returned to the office in the UK, and this is expected to soon be on the cards for the company’s platform and advice arms.

Karin Cook, chief operating officer at Quilter, said: “However, we’re also keen to capitalise on some of the benefits of remote working.

“Many advisers already adopted a flexible approach that allowed them to maximise their focus on getting out to see clients, rather than feeling tied to their desks.

“Of course those clients’ interactions have moved to online video meetings during the pandemic, and while these won’t replace face-to-face contact altogether, they can introduce additional flexibility to the way advisers communicate with clients.