Has the pandemic transformed financial advice for the better?

Has the pandemic transformed financial advice for the better?

We can say with absolute certainty there is not one person in the UK today whose life was not affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the associated fallout this year. 

Many of us adapted to the restrictions of lockdown and working from home, while for others the threat of the virus meant months of self-isolation and a potentially fatal illness. 

So the impact of the crisis on the financial advice industry goes beyond market volatility and its impact on investments - redefining, perhaps permanently, the role advisers play in their client’s lives. 

Intergenerational wealth transfer 

In a world changed forever by the outbreak, John Porteous, group head of distribution at Charles Stanley, has predicted one of the most notable changes in the relationship between advisers and their clients will be a greater focus on intergenerational wealth transfer. 

Speaking at FTAdviser’s Financial Advice Forum last month, Mr Porteous said: “Families are increasingly waking up to its importance and that is in no small part due to the emotional strain of the past six months, and the subsequent emergence of a ‘what if?’ generation. 

“It is undeniable that society has experienced a level of anxiety that arguably has not been seen for generations.

“While this can manifest in many and varied ways, many people have started to ask themselves three questions: what if, am I prepared, and is my family prepared?”

In research commissioned before the pandemic, Charles Stanley found just one in five adults were openly talking about inheritance with their families. But Mr Porteous predicted this would have “considerably” increased if the same question were to be asked in the wake of the crisis. 

He said clients were becoming more reflective and opening their minds to the importance of intergenerational planning, but warned the conversation was not always smooth sailing. 

Mr Porteous said: “Talking about our relationship with money is difficult, and for some it is highly emotive and for others divisive. In many cases it can expose jealousy or anger around perceived inequality of status within a family unit.

“It can be hard in our profession of wealth management and financial planning to appreciate how deep-rooted these issues are, given that we talk about money all day as part of our business.

“In my experience, when emotional issues are tackled by logic alone the outcome is not always a happy one.” 

It would seem the industry has already begun to act on greater client demand for intergenerational wealth planning, with SimplyBiz reporting a sharp rise earlier this year in advisers interested in its training courses in this area. 

In May the support services company said it had received more than 300 bookings for 15 courses in will writing and estate planning, which were launched at the start of April.

Indeed, when writing for Financial Adviser in the summer Ken Davy, chairman of the SimplyBiz Group, said the coronavirus had “resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of clients seeking guidance on wills”.