During the early days of COVID-19, when cases were mounting and the markets were uncomfortably volatile, it was hard to see potential for positive change. But the pandemic has turned out to be the catalyst for a surprising and meaningful shift in our industry—and has helped us shape what the advisory practice of the future may look like.
Many of us are naturally resistant to change. But the unique circumstances of the pandemic prompted us to use unexpected approaches to managing our businesses and serving clients because we had to. We quickly discovered new processes and untapped possibilities to run a virtual practice in this new normal. And we’ve realized, too, that these changes are helping establish an infrastructure for success we can continue to build on in the future.
Succession and Continuity Thinking Is Evolving
Advisors devote their careers to helping others be prepared, but they don’t always take their own advice. Research shows fewer than one-third of advisors have a continuity plan in place to protect them in the event of an unexpected occurrence. This is critically important because fee-based revenue can’t be paid to advisors who are unable to give guidance to clients. According to ThinkAdvisor, 73 percent of advisors lack a succession plan—a planned and permanent transfer of a practice or book of business.
Why such low numbers? Many advisors say they don’t know of anyone in their area who could be a continuity partner or successor. But that mindset is changing. In the advisory practice of the future, your partner or successor doesn’t need to be local. Now that videoconferencing technology like Zoom has enabled us to broaden our reach, an advisor 10 states away may be the right fit and do a great job for your clients. If you’ve been dragging your heels, it’s time to set new parameters and put a plan in place.
The View for Growth Is Expanding
The same holds true when it comes to growth: physical location doesn’t matter as much as we thought. Without limiting opportunities to your geographic region, your options for potential clients grow exponentially. There’s no reason you can’t have clients in all 50 states when you view your prospecting approach through a virtual lens. Think of your clients’ children and other relatives who don’t live in your area. Now that you know you can run a virtual practice, how many of them would make great clients?
Growth opportunities can also come from adding advisors to your practice, whether as associates or as partners. For many advisors, it’s all about finding the right fit: a firm that reflects their values, way of doing business, and care and concern for clients. If advisors share those attributes, does it really matter where they are physically located? A shift in mindset offers a much bigger pool of candidates to choose from, which benefits everyone.
New Efficiencies Are Laying the Groundwork for Scale and Capacity
Through technology and adjustments we’ve added to business processes during the pandemic, we’ve uncovered new efficiencies for the advisory practice of the future. Some fixes have been simple, such as adding calendar functions that allow clients or prospects to set their own appointments, as well as videoconferencing options. Other adjustments have been more complex, such as implementing a paperless practice or changing onboarding processes so clients upload paperwork.
At the start of the pandemic, many of these changes were well underway within weeks. Imagine what you could accomplish through an intentional focus on brainstorming and development. Embrace and expand upon the virtual efficiencies you’ve gained! You’ll have a leg up on practices that don’t.
Newly Tapped Skills Are Adding Value
The shift to working remotely was rapid and strenuous, especially for those with children who were suddenly taking online classes at home. But some firms took it as an opportunity to tackle new projects and make improvements. I’ve talked to staff members who’ve launched a new website or improved new client onboarding. And I’ve heard from more than a few advisors that their team members are discovering ways to put underused or newly discovered abilities to use.
With the pandemic revealing hidden skill sets, why stop there? Drill even deeper into your teams’ capabilities. Consider adding flexibility to job descriptions. Deploy your human capital far differently than in the past. Tapping into the talent you have is critical—to adding value for your clients and business, as well as nurturing staff with development opportunities that make them want to stay.
Technology Is Opening New Doors for Expansion
If you weren’t already using webinars as a growth driver before the pandemic, you probably are now. With people depending so much more on technology for work (and even socializing), many of you are testing out webinars with great success.
Using technology for a workshop allows you to easily focus on a message or niche because the cost is virtually nothing. Webinars are here to stay, so if you haven’t attempted one, give it a try. You’ll love the way it allows you to scale. Whether you have 10, 50, or 150 people joining you, it’s the same work, cost, and effort—but with a much broader potential reach.
A Surprising New Road Map
Despite all the challenges the pandemic introduced, its impact has actually helped us create an unexpected basis for the advisory practice of the future. By forcing us to collectively rethink ways to connect with clients and deepen relationships, we’ve learned a lot about what’s possible. Although much still can change, we have tools and processes that enable us not only to take on new challenges that come our way—but also to find new opportunities along the way.
This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.