Advisers have begun their return to the office as coronavirus restrictions ease - but things are not quite as they used to be.
FTAdviser spoke to a number of firms about their experience of providing advice post-lockdown, as well as their return to office premises, and found a range of contrasting views.
Quilter Financial Advisers managing director Amanda Cassidy suggested the Covid-19 pandemic had produced a permanent shift to some clients' preferences.
She explained: “As we come out the other side of the pandemic, we have seen a real shift in the approach to advice in general, and we feel strongly that hybrid advice will play an important role in the future of the sector and will help the industry to keep pace with changing client behaviours.
Cassidy said: “While a face-to-face meeting can be an excellent way to create and build rapport, it can be time-consuming for both the adviser and client and there is no reason why it can’t be replicated remotely. Therefore, we are seeing many clients feel that a remote session is easier to fit around their schedule.”
Recent client research by Quilter found nearly half of those surveyed preferred remote advice, and this figure increased in younger clients.
Marietta Connery, people director at Schroders Personal Wealth, said the company was conducting meetings virtually as well as in the firm’s offices and in clients' homes. Its staff now split their time between their own homes and the office.
“We have updated our flexible working policy and expect people to work in a hybrid manner for the foreseeable future,” she said.
Rush to office
However, other advisers have been back in the office full-time since the government changed its advice to businesses in July.
David Barton, chief executive at Prosper Wealth Management, part of Independent Wealth Planners (IWP), said his staff returned in July. Prior to this, staff had been coming in on a rota basis, but he describes them as keen to get back into the office as soon as the government advised them it was safe to do so.
“We are quite lucky, as none of the team are dependent on public transport to travel to work and all have their own individual offices where they can work safely and socially distance.
“They sanitise hands upon arrival, and are encouraged to repeat this process throughout the day. We no longer use the kitchen areas for lunch and tend to eat at our desks. If any staff member feels unwell they are told to stay at home and take a Covid test. Face masks are optional for both staff and clients.”