With many advisors forced to work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many of them for the first time, there are several important steps that advisory firms can take — if they haven’t already — to deploy an effective virtual environment and to “thrive,” according to TD Ameritrade Institutional executives.
“Working virtually is something many of us have done” already, Craig Cintron, senior manager of institutional consulting at the firm, said Wednesday during the webcast “Moving Client Engagement Virtual.”
But he asked: “Have you thought about what the impact that working remotely will have on your associates, your clients and your business? Have you spoken with your clients about engaging with them remotely? Are they comfortable? Are you and your teams comfortable?”
Those are all considerations advisors should be asking before adopting a virtual environment within their firms, he said. However, many firms may have been forced into shifting abruptly to remote work and had to “fast track some of these decisions,” he conceded.
“The key is to embrace the change,” he said, adding: “The client experience needs to evolve and adapt as your client expectations are changed by their environments. It all starts with the associative experience and if you take care of your associates, they will take care of clients.”
The Importance of Video
As part of a recent Forbes survey, 95% of more than 300 senior executives polled said video communications will have a positive impact on performance and that “video creates a greater sense of trust.” That is “really good news because a lot of advisors were already starting to incorporate a virtual option for their associates and some are learning to do it on the fly,” Cintron said.
That applies to advisors’ clients also, he said, noting: “They still want to see you and having a video option to do so helps you continue to serve them and deepen the relationship.”
However, Cintron also noted that tech and hardware also creates challenges, especially when it comes to remote work. A firm’s staff must have the correct hardware to do their jobs, including webcams and computers, and they must have the ability to run computer programs and stream video at the same time, he noted.
Cybersecurity is also important, so it is always best to “not use a public hotspot like the ones provided by large cable companies or from other local businesses,” he said, noting “they are not password-protected.” It is also best to have separate machines to access work systems, especially if computing devices are shared with others at home, he said.
Remote Work Benefits
As many advisors already know, there are some obvious benefits to working from home. “Perhaps you can decrease your office space needs” and even your equipment needs by keeping remote work as an option, Cintron pointed out. Advisory firms can then use the money saved to “increase your virtual abilities,” he said.
Cintron was also the latest industry executive to point out that one major potential benefit to allowing remote work, even after this crisis ends, is that it may “help you recruit and retain associates locally and around the country that maybe you didn’t have access to before.” It could also help attract clients from outside the local area, he said.