The global Covid-19 pandemic has challenged the financial services industry — as it has challenged most industries — in multiple ways. Most notably, offices have shut down as companies have been forced to adjust to physical distancing measures. Work routines as we knew them have been turned upside down.
But work has certainly not stopped. Industry has just had to find ways to adapt as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Although this has been difficult for financial planners and firms alike, in some respects, the situation has had the positive effect of forcing the industry to accelerate its adoption of different technologies and to find new ways of doing business. This could ultimately have long-lasting benefits for the industry and for Canadians.
When in-person meetings are no longer feasible, client conversations cannot simply come to a halt — especially at a time when Canadians are facing significant financial challenges. Canadians need the guidance of professional financial planners more than ever as they grapple with job losses, market volatility and other factors that could have significant implications for their short-term budgets and longer-term financial plans. While financial planners can’t physically be there, they still must “be there” to help at this time when their clients most need them.
Luckily, there is no shortage of technology available to help financial planners find new ways of connecting with clients. It’s no surprise that video conferencing has seen a massive surge in users since March, as Canadians have enthusiastically embraced these platforms to connect with others during this period of physical distancing, both for professional purposes and social ones.
For financial planners, whose workdays typically revolve around client meetings, video conferencing technology is a game changer. Although it may not be as ideal as seeing clients in person, with a little practice, it can do a good job of emulating the in-person experience. In fact, in the right environment, it can even help planners better connect with their clients, through close-range face-to-face conversations. Video meetings also generate significant efficiencies by saving travel time, which can add up to a considerable portion of the day. By utilizing technology to connect with clients remotely, financial planners can actually spend more of their time doing what they love to do — meeting with clients.
Over the past few years, technology has made massive strides in the financial services space. While it has benefitted financial planners and their firms, it’s also been incredibly disruptive. In fact, the emergence of robo-advisors and artificial intelligence have created new options for consumers that have in some cases presented a threat to the traditional human advice model that financial planners rely on.
Despite this disruption, many planners have openly embraced technological advancements as a way of enhancing their service or allowing them to focus on providing true holistic, personal financial planning for their clients. But, as with all disruption, for many others, the advent of technology has been something to be wary of. Until change becomes necessary, inertia tends to be an easier option — even if that means missing out on the progress that change can bring.
But in this new world, where the traditional forms of business are now impossible, embracing technology is no longer an option; rather, it’s become an essential part of the financial planner’s suite of tools.
Even once the current physical distancing measures are lifted, virtual meetings are very likely to become a common part of day-to-day business. Some clients will undoubtedly gravitate toward video conferencing as their preferred meeting format, and financial planners will need to continue to accommodate that preference.
Beyond virtual meetings, financial planners can take this opportunity to explore other possible ways in which technology can make life easier or enhance service for clients. There’s no doubt technology will continue to advance, and consumer expectations of planners’ use of technology to support their service will advance along with it. Sooner rather than later, those who can’t adapt and make technology a seamless part of their business will simply not survive.
Although 2020 has so far been the most challenging year in many of our lives, some good has come of it. Financial planners, employers and the broader industry have demonstrated remarkable resilience in navigating these unforeseen circumstances, and there is no doubt this experience will pave the way for a future financial services industry that is more adaptable and innovative than ever before.