The events of the past 18 months have given us all the opportunity to do things differently, with new technology enabling advisers to service clients remotely in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. 

    We always talk about the importance of face-to-face interaction in our industry, and it’s a real sign of our times that so many advisers and planners are currently working with clients they’ve never met. In fact, I know numerous business owners who are planning on adopting this approach longer term – using it as an opportunity to access a broader pool of clients across the UK.  

    However, there are several factors that will determine their success.  

    1. Mastering the basics 

    How advisers present themselves – and their brand – is arguably even more important when working remotely. It’s not uncommon to join a Zoom call where people are dressed in t-shirts these days, but clients still need to view their adviser as someone they feel they can trust. 

    Your visible background is equally important: it’s always worth making sure that there isn’t any unsightly mess or confidential client material you wouldn’t want to be seen on camera. It’s also important to ensure that cameras are always positioned at eye level to help you appear focused and engaged during meetings.  

    2. Thinking outside of the box with client engagement 

    It may be tempting to think that remote working simply means that you can start serving clients from anywhere and that’s an end to it, but the reality is much more nuanced. Don’t forget that people willing to be advised remotely will have their pick of firms around the UK, and it’s much easier to leave someone you don’t go for regular cups of tea with.  

    First and foremost, advisers need to make sure that they’re still getting in the small talk and niceties we often forget about on a video calls.  

    More broadly, though, we all need to be thinking differently when it comes to client engagement outside of a normal meeting. I've seen some great events hosted online with entertainment packs being sent to clients beforehand. I would bet that pretty much every firm knows someone in wine sales or a local artisan food producer; using them has the added bonus of helping support local businesses.  

    3. Not assuming younger people want to do everything online 

    New technology has enabled us to automate a sizeable chunk of the advice process, but we cannot forget that the financial advice model remains built on trust and understanding, which comes across best when someone is able to look their adviser in the eye and ask questions. 

    Something that has really surprised me during the pandemic is that, even among millennials who claim to like doing things online, take-up of robo advice has still been relatively low. This demonstrates that, when it comes to their wealth, even the youngest and most tech-savvy people want a real person giving them an opinion. With this in mind, be sure to offer every client the choice of regular Zoom or face-to-face catch-ups, especially in the early stages.  

    4. Being selective with partners and providers  

    To be successful in the long term, you need providers and partners who are happy to adapt to your new way of working. Are your platforms able to accommodate clients being located further afield, for example? Or will certain processes – such as requiring wet signatures – hinder you in your day-to-day work? 

    An obvious point it may seem, but if you plan to sell your services in other parts of the UK, then you also need to ensure that your lead generation firm is briefed to sell you on what you do, not where you do it. Make sure they have a good understanding of key areas of specialism – such as divorce and separation – which may set you apart from the crowd nationally.  

    5. Being prepared for new regulatory responsibilities 

    Working remotely creates a whole new set of responsibilities for business owners, and the FCA has quite rightly said that they will be clamping down in this area.  

    The regulator will be looking at everything from IT security and how advisers ensure post arriving at their home address stays away from prying eyes, to how client calls and communications are being monitored. Aside from this, there is also greater onus on firms to ensure the wellbeing of advisers is looked after. Even if you’re not seeing staff every day, you still have a duty to ensure that all employees are well looked after both physically and mentally in the home workspace. 

    All of these things need to be handled, but it can be easy to lose track of where responsibilities start and end, so you might want to consult a professional who can pinpoint any gaps in your current processes.  

    At a minimum, firms should ensure that they are familiar with and that they are able to clearly demonstrate the action being taken in each area.  

    Good luck!

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