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The new normal: Advisers shift to hybrid model as they return to offices

Barton said the entire team has been offered the flexibility to work from home if they wish to do so and all of the advisers now have the technology to do so as well.

“We offer clients virtual, office and telephone-based appointments, which caters for those who may be shielding or are still nervous about visiting the office. So we expect to see a mixture of both virtual and physical meetings,” he added. 

“That said, what we’ve experienced so far is that the majority of clients are keen to re-engage with us on a personal basis by visiting the office.”

Meanwhile, IFA Felix Milton, chartered financial planner at Philip J Milton & Company, said his firm had one adviser permanently at home, one permanently at the office and one operating with a hybrid approach, seeing clients physically where requested but being remote the rest of the time.

He said: “We’d like to encourage more clients to have telephone or Zoom meetings as we’ve found these to be far more efficient from a time perspective than face to face. But there’s no obligation for clients and they can do whatever they’re most comfortable with.”

Consolidator Fairstone said it has put in place a gradual return to office, with most critical people and teams back in the office now. 

Claire Dent, head of HR, said face to face and direct contact with clients remained at the core of the business, but technology allowed advisers to work more efficiently and spend more time with clients.

Fairstone has introduced an entirely remote advice process, named 'Zeto', which enables advisers to engage with clients in a no-contact environment and, it says, enable all aspects of a face-to-face consultation to be delivered virtually.

She said: "Adopting a safety-first approach, we will continue to review as and when Covid case numbers start to decrease.

“Meanwhile we have implemented agile working across the business; the concept of more flexible working is believed to improve work/life balance and also increase efficiency across those areas where it is most appropriate. Advisers are seeing clients face-to-face where they can and where the client wants to."

Office layout

Philip Martin, managing director at Unique Financial Planning, said the majority of advisers at his firm were self-employed and so there was no obligation to be in the office, but most are nevertheless back. 

“We have made considerable changes to the layouts in all five of our offices to ensure social distancing can be adhered to and are keeping voluntarily given vaccine records,” he said.