While we continue to battle against Covid-19, the full effects of the pandemic are yet to be realised.
Only after mass vaccination occurs across the world will we begin to properly understand what the ‘new normal’ really is, and whether the changes that have occurred were temporary adjustments or more significant transformations.
I think all these changes, such as those on the High Street and city centres, and knock-on consequences for transport, have had a transformative effect on the way advice is delivered, rapidly accelerating developments in our working practices and bringing changes that will remain with us long after the pandemic has disappeared.
The first and most obvious has been the way advisers communicate with clients.
Despite the explosion in consumer use of technology – and in particular mobile and video technology – our industry has remained wedded to face-to-face client meetings as the primary method of delivering initial and ongoing advice.
Covid has forced us to change and make use of the fantastic tech that is available.
Video conferencing and screensharing have come to the fore and have been embraced by our clients, as they too become more familiar with communicating in this way.
Just as an example, according to Statista in January there were around 38,000 active daily users of Zoom in the UK. By the end of November, this had increased to roughly 1.7m.
It has also been notable how those aged over 65 have become more tech-savvy during 2020, and this tech literacy is a new skill that is likely to stay with them long after the lockdowns end.
Closer to home, before lockdown advisers were sending Dynamic Planner invitations to around 1,000 clients a month to complete their risk profile online (often on a mobile). By October this had grown to around 7,000 invitations a month.
Unquestionably there were teething problems for many advisers as they adapted to this new way of working, and some disquiet from business leaders who were used to a ‘hands-on’ management style.
But since then, many of the companies we speak to have experienced a productivity dividend as they have taken the opportunity to engage with many more clients. Many companies are reviewing three or four clients a day, whereas face-to-face it was three or four a week.
At some point in 2021 there may be a clamour to return to face-to-face meetings, but I strongly believe companies should resist this and focus instead on reaping the benefits of remote advice.
In addition to being able to engage with more clients, remote advice also offers the opportunity to have more frequent catch-ups with existing clients.
The pandemic has caused huge disruption for many people facing furlough or even redundancy, and that is not just among young or low-paid staff – look at the impact on airline pilots and oil workers, for example.