Photo: Lightspring/Shutterstock; Thomas Andre Fure/Shutterstock

When it comes to the coronavirus crisis, RIA firms must prepare themselves now by considering potential client, employee and financial impact, along with business continuity, cybersecurity and regulatory issues, according to GJ King, president of RIA in a Box.

“This is a very unique circumstance,” he said during a March 11 webinar entitled “How RIA Firms can Prepare for the Coronavirus.” Although the sector has faced market downturns and extreme volatility before, this time there is a “convergence of a number of issues at once,” he pointed out.

Usually, if you run an RIA firm, you are almost entirely concerned about your clients when facing such market volatility, he noted. And certainly RIAs need to make sure they are communicating regularly with their clients during this crisis, making certain to be calm and explain how their firms are handling the situation, he said, adding: “You can not over-communicate with your clients during times like this.”

However, in this particular case, you also need to be concerned about your employees, he told listeners, noting that members of an organization’s staff will not all react to the crisis in the same way and some employees are at greater risk of getting the virus than others. Communication is key here also, so, “in these times, you can not over-communicate with your staff” either, he said.

Labor laws concerning employees with medical issues vary from state to state, and accommodation policies for workers who are overly afraid of getting sick need to be considered carefully, so it is best to consult with the proper human resources and legal experts, he said.

You also need to make certain you are ready if an employee tests positive for coronavirus, according to King. For example, it is a good idea to make sure in advance that there are other staff members trained to take over for an employee who gets sick, he noted.

It is important for those running RIA firms to make sure their business continuity plans address their communication strategies, regulatory considerations, tech stacks and cybersecurity, he told listeners.

“You cannot assume that a transition to potentially moving to a remote workforce will go smoothly,” he pointed out. Although some firms are used to their employees working remotely on a regular basis, others are not and should prepare right now for such a change by testing procedures and making sure they are ready, he said.

On the communication front, when deploying web-based video conferencing services like Zoom for the first time, it is important to offer training to make sure your employees and clients are all trained to use the system you select, King noted. Other new services you may need to select and get everybody up to speed on include internal communications systems such as Slack and password management systems such as LastPass, he said.

When it comes to regulatory considerations, you should make certain your firm has the ability to continue to remotely supervise staff members who may not be physically located in the office, he also pointed out. Those firms without the proper systems in place will be especially vulnerable to potential compliance issues, he noted.

During turbulent times, firms are also at an increased risk of cyberattacks and systems being compromised, he warned. There is a heightened risk of cyber incidents with the use of remote offices and heightened anxiety among employees, he said, noting employees may be more vulnerable to email phishing attacks.

(RIA in a Box also highlighted these issues online in a blog post.)

Jeff Berman is a staff reporter at ThinkAdvsor. Reach him at jberman@alm.com.