At home and not going back: Most advisors don’t plan to return to the office full time

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Six months after the coronavirus provoked nationwide stay-at-home orders, most financial advisors haven’t returned to the office — and don’t plan to anytime soon.

It’s the latest sign of how the ongoing pandemic, which has cost 200,000 lives in the U.S., has reordered work routines for tens of thousands of advisors and their clients.

Nearly 60% of advisors are still working remotely, according to a new survey by Broadridge Financial Solutions. Seventeen percent plan to return by the end this year, while 13% say they will be in the office in the first quarter of 2021. More than a quarter of advisors (27%) are either unsure about going back to an office or have no plan to do so.

“I am now permanently working from home with no desire to go back to the office,” says Michael Whitman, a managing partner at Millennium Planning Group, in an email. Now that his clients are comfortable with virtual meetings, he says the shift has been great for him. “The hardest part is working with [my] spouse next to me and a two-and-a-half-year-old. However, the rewards are so much better than any of the potential issues.”

Seventy percent of the 400 advisors Broadridge polled say COVID-19 will have a lasting, long-term impact on how much time they spend in an office. Of the advisors who are once again working in an office, the majority are only going four days or less per week. Even looking out a year from now, 58% do not anticipate being in the office full time.

While the transition to remote work has been seamless for many, it’s not without its drawbacks, according to some industry insiders and leaders. Some advisors say there are elements of meeting face-to-face that just can’t be replicated online. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink recently said he worries about a lack of productivity and collaboration in remote working, and UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti said it is difficult to create and sustain corporate culture when employees stay home.

Christopher Rand, a managing partner with FIDES Wealth Strategies Group. Rand already worked from home one day per week before the pandemic and plans to stay home two days each week going forward. Still, he values in-person meetings.

“I truly feel that the office community with teammates and clients can't be replicated and as such will always have a large portion of the work time in person versus virtual,” Rand says in an email.

Most advisors say they have maintained productivity through virtual meetings with clients and prospects, according to Broadridge’s study. Sixty-five percent of advisors say they are just as productive working from home as they are in an office.

Some advisors have never left the office. Nadine Burns, CEO of A New Path Financial, says financial services professionals like herself were considered essential workers in Michigan, allowing her to remain in the office through the entire pandemic.

“We had lunch deliveries and saw some clients in the office, with proper protocols, and others on Zoom,” Burns says in an email. “We personally had our adult children working from home, so it was great to still be able to come in, not have any traffic, and get more work done more efficiently.”

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Coronavirus Practice management Work from home Workplace safety and security Workplace culture Broadridge