After his shock at research revealing one in four clients had not heard from their IFA during the Covid-19 crisis, Clarion Wealth Planning's business development director John Winstanley takes a look at what service you should expect from your financial planner in lockdown.
We are hearing a lot about the "new normal" in terms of how business is being done during the coronavirus outbreak. Many businesses are having to adopt new work practices that, if not entirely alien, are certainly very different.
Whether a business has adapted inelegantly to temporary solutions or has seen the crisis as an opportunity to make wholesale and permanent change to its systems and modus operandi, the guiding principle must always be the needs of the client, and of course, the employees.
The very least clients are entitled to expect is regular communication, reassurance, leadership, adaptability and to know that employees are cared for and well supported.
Financial planning has always relied on establishing, developing and maintaining strong enduring relationships and that should always be the case even if the industry is facing procedural challenges and change.
Clients can tolerate volatility in their investments but they must be able to feel that their financial planner is on top of the situation and keeping them fully informed.
Trust is vital and once lost it is almost impossible to regain. Financial planners who do not communicate regularly with clients to offer reassurance and information updates when circumstances are unusual squander the respect and confidence that has been hard won. Difficult working conditions is no excuse for lack of attention.
Communication is the priority: being meticulous about clarity and speed of responses averts abandonment concerns.
Of course in any relationship it works both ways. Not listening to clients will have just as detrimental effect on the relationship as not providing enough information. A crisis such as the one we are now living through requires an additional layer of communication and client care.
We are very fortunate at Clarion Wealth Planning to have clients who have responded positively to the regular updates they have received during lockdown and this has cemented relationships and improved outcomes.
Stepping up client communication is an opportunity to show leadership and open dialogue through as many channels as appropriate including video calling, emails, website posts, social media, messaging, and not least the good old-fashioned telephone.
Uncertain times mean clients want to hear from the top, not just from their own financial planner. Personal thought pieces from CEOs or founders cut through the media noise to provide a clear overview and reassures clients that there is a firm and steady hand of guidance during the Covid-19 storm.
Economic and market commentaries by directors should be authoritative and can demonstrate that the company has up-to-date and in-depth knowledge which helps to navigate these uncharted waters.
Clarion Wealth Planning has found that regular, informed communication by emails, website and social media posts avoids an information vacuum when combined with personalised contact from individual planners. A crisis is not a time when people want to hear less from their investment advisers.
The over-70s are facing the double risk of being in the vulnerable category for coronavirus complications and also fears about the effect the crisis will have on their retirement income. Some people are also, if media reports are to be believed, less familiar with the technology required to operate and remain in contact in this socially distanced world. Happily, Clarion Wealth Planning has found that many in this demographic already had a good working knowledge of the digital world or, if not, they have adapted very quickly.
Zoom has, seemingly overnight, become part of everyday vocabulary in both the personal and business world. Video calling and conferencing has, by necessity, replaced face-to-face meetings. The relationship that can be established quickly in person may be a little more difficult on screen but this is a very small price to pay to ensure that regular meetings continue to take place. Many firms are reporting great success in this field and that this may be the way forward once the lockdown is over.
Willingness to adapt to working from home without the proximity of office support and in-person camaraderie of team work has meant service has more or less been uninterrupted. It has not just been the clients who have had to embrace new technology.
How companies treat their employee during the pandemic and phased return to whatever normality there will be is just as important as client relationships. Financial planners have adapted to working from home in new ways under exceptional circumstances. For them to do their best work, it is essential they are supported now and in the future.
Clarion Wealth Planning is relentless in putting the health and safety of its staff, including mental wellbeing, as a top priority, particularly if they are having to work in isolation. We are creating better lives - now and in the future - for our clients, their families and those who are important to them in conjunction with those of our colleagues.
Photo: John Winstanley, business development director.