Prepare your practice — and yourself — for a post-coronavirus world

As advisors and planners, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in the adaptation of our industry.
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With our industry barreling into 2021, an old maxim came to mind the other day: Hindsight is 20/20.

True — literally and figuratively. We now find ourselves at a critical juncture in the evolution of our profession. So let’s take one last, careful look at this justly maligned year, learn all we can and move on.

It’s key we acknowledge that the cataclysmic changes will, without a doubt, permanently alter how we do business, work with our clients and the way we think about our enterprise.

We must foresee and accept that, even when we have a vaccine for COVID-19, there will still be a large contingent of folks — particularly the affluent elderly who make up a large part of our client base — who will be cautious about getting out and about in the ways they once did.

We know we can help them because, when the pandemic hit, we helped those clients remain composed in an environment where face-to-face meetings were suddenly impossible — and potentially deadly for our most medically vulnerable clients. To do so we completely retooled our workflows and processes to provide essential services — and to stay afloat.

Lethal complacency

In 2021, we can put to use the hard lessons we learned on the fly to continue to reach clients and other crucial stakeholders with timely, reliable information to help them stay calmer, more focused and as much in control as possible.

We must accept that very little will go back to the way it was

But to do that, we must accept that very little will go back to the way it was; on the contrary, we need to build on the foundation we have laid. I firmly believe that Zoom, Slack, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and similar platforms are now a permanent part of our workdays. Advisors and planners will need to become increasingly creative in the ways that we engage our core audiences — clients and potential clients — using these methods.

We can’t become complacent, thinking, “Oh, I know how to use Zoom.” Remember, during the pandemic our clients have begun measuring the consumer experience against a baseline established by online enterprises like Amazon, Favor and Netflix. We have to continue to innovate, adapt and improve the ways that we can touch our clients without actually sitting across the table from them.

A thousand digital office visits? How virtual recruiting efforts are paying off
Ameriprise, for example, has hosted more six times as many advisors virtually than it did in person last year.

Next, we have to recommit to on-brand messaging built around the fundamentals. We are moving into a future where “normal” is subject to redefinition almost daily. In a constantly shifting landscape, our clients need to know that we are still here, still building and maintaining diversified portfolios, still designing strategies built on peer-reviewed, research-tested financial principles. If we expect them to stay the course, we have to be clear about the destination and our plan for helping them get there.

Finally, we are going to need to place an increased premium on being nimble. This includes everything from modes of workflow and how we adapt our processes and procedures to the new realities of remote teams, to anticipating developments — positive and negative — and developing stress-tested solutions in advance of the event.

For example, I suspect that many of us have revisited our firms’ disaster contingency plans over the last few months, looking for ways to build in greater resiliency in the face of the sudden need to vacate our premises, whether due to a government order, social unrest or natural disaster. That type of advance thinking and planning must focus most of all on maintenance of service to our clients.

As an industry, we did all these things.

At my firm, we did all these things. It was exhausting. But it was worth it.

With apologies to Dorothy, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. In fact, Kansas isn’t Kansas anymore — at least, not the pre-COVID-19 Kansas. The black swan event that took the form of the coronavirus pandemic has altered our world in some ways that have become apparent, and other ways that still cannot be fully anticipated.

Over the history of the human race, continual adaptation has been the key to survival. As advisors and planners, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in the adaptation of our industry. Let’s take one last, careful look in the rearview mirror at 2020 and learn all we can.

And then let’s turn our eyes to the road ahead.

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Coronavirus Practice management Client strategies RIAs