"When restrictions are eased, will there be a full return to how things were before or are some of the new habits we learned here to stay?"
After several weeks working from home, many of us are keen to get back to the office – in a recent Intelliflo poll of over 500 advisers on the impact of Covid-19, one respondent’s tip for homeworking was: “Don't do it, office working is far more efficient!” Although there are obviously a number of downsides to the lockdown, one positive could be in how we’ve all embraced new ways to keep in touch, which could have a lasting impact on the financial advice industry.
With face-to-face meetings largely restricted, over the last couple of months we’ve all got used to communicating remotely. Video conferencing over Teams, Zoom, Whats App and other tools has grown exponentially as people have been forced to adapt to keep up to date with colleagues, catch up with friends and family, and even consult with our GPs. The financial advice profession is no different – we saw the number of co-browsing sessions between advisers and clients via Intelligent Office’s integrated Glia app increase almost six-fold (589%) between February and April.
When restrictions are eased, will there be a full return to how things were before or are some of the new habits we learned here to stay? Will the new normal simply be the old normal with extra Zoom meetings? I don’t think so. Logins to our Personal Finance Portal, which allows advisers and clients to interact with each other via a secure online hub, increased more than three times (333%) between February and April, which suggests that the shift is about more than just video calling. Two thirds (68%) of firms in our poll also reported that they had had more time to think about and implement processes and business efficiencies during the lockdown period, with more than half (59%) predicting that increased adoption of technology will make them more efficient.
Of course, at some point most of us will return to the office and regular face-to-face meetings with clients will resume. But when asked in our poll what the new normal will look like, more than two-thirds (68%) of advisers believe there will be less frequent face-to-face communications with clients. More than half (57%) of our respondents also expect staff to work remotely more frequently in future, which tallies with the fact that the change to the working day that advisers most enjoy is the lack of commute (22%), followed closely by having a more flexible schedule (19%).
Our survey also found that half (50%) of firms had seen an improvement in client employee adoption of available technology. This indicates that clients too are becoming more comfortable with new ways of interacting with their adviser; ways that may fit more easily around work, childcare and other demands on their time.
Only time will tell whether the lockdown experience will create lasting change in how we work and communicate with each other and mark a turning point in the way advisers and clients interact. Many of the trends we’ve seen towards increased use of technology and digital communication were happening already in our industry, but the crisis has accelerated adoption among both advisers and clients. It’s hard to see advisers being able to fully return to the old ways of working very soon, but we can maintain new habits that help improve efficiency while continuing to deliver exceptional service, firms have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future.