How planners have adapted to social isolation

If you’re in the business of face-to-face advice, the past few months will have significantly changed your daily operations.

Many planners have gone from hosting either most or all of their consultations in an office environment to exclusively advising over the phone or internet.

Given the pace at which social distancing regulations were introduced across Australia, there was little time to adapt.

At the same time, the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic have prompted a virtual rush to planners for advice on everything from losing a job to managing market volatility.

You may be wondering how your counterparts have dealt with the transition, what the challenges have been and how they are managing their workflows.

Communication is key

Jamie Ardern, general manager of operations at Kofkin Bond & Co, says his business had just moved into a new office in the city when the working from home requirements came in.

However, he says the restrictions haven’t fundamentally changed how Kofkin Bond & Co manages its advice process. Instead, the changes have been primarily logistical.

“We now jump onto (Microsoft) Teams every morning, we set the workflow and then have another Teams meeting at 3pm,” he says.

“Our phone system transfers all of our calls to our mobiles, so we haven’t had to port any numbers.”

In terms of daily operations, the firm uses CRM solution Practifi to manage workflows. Members of the team are tagged in posts and can keep an eye on what everyone is working on, and what stage of the process they are at, regardless of their location.

“It was important to us to be able to see where we are up to in a client journey, and who is working on certain aspects of it,” Jamie says.

Kofkin Bond & Co has a workforce of 10, with another person due to come aboard later this month.

Jamie says the new appointment is a result of increased demand for superannuation and investment advice.

He says clients have responded well to the shift to virtual communication and advice, but the firm was already offering remote advice to some clients before the lockdown period began.

For the Melbourne-based firm, it has meant being able to offer advice to busy clients who need to change locations frequently.  

“We have been offering Teams meetings for a while now. Clients like it because they can essentially do it from the car if they like,” Jamie says. “If you’ve got a couple and one is in the city and one is in the outer suburbs, they can both join together.”

While changing market conditions did prompt both interest from prospective clients and new leads, there wasn’t panic from existing clients because they have login access to a source of truth that gives them transparency about their financial situation.

The biggest hurdle

The hardest part of social isolation has been the lack of face-to-face interaction among his team.

“When you’re working remotely, you can’t just turn around and brainstorm with the person behind you,” he says. “You may have an idea that you really want to share with someone but have to wait for that next meeting.”

However, he says there are lessons from the lockdown that will help the business in the future.

One of the key lessons has been to continue investigating new technology and to keep informed about offerings that can improve the way advice is delivered.

“We have always been interested in new market innovations and I think this period has shown the importance of that,” he says.

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