No organization could have anticipated the unprecedented global implications of COVID-19.
The swift and relentless nature of the pandemic impacted the global economy in ways not seen during previous crises. Businesses across all industries were faced with critical decisions as they executed business continuity plans.
For our firm, it meant relying on a set of guiding principles to quickly make decisions to ensure the safety of 49,000 branch and home office associates, while also being there for our 7 million clients when they need us most.
Along the way, we learned valuable lessons that we are applying as we prepare for the “new normal.”
Prioritize Client Needs; Support Branch Teams
Being a financial services firm, we were one of 16 industries deemed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as essential.
While our branches are temporarily closed to outside visitors to protect our communities, this guidance enabled us to remain open for business and continue serving our clients.
Quickly we implemented guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local government officials regarding strategies to limit disease spread and keep our branch teams and home office associates safe.
This included best practices around social distancing and hygiene measures that enabled us to keep our associates healthy and our 15,000 branches operational for our clients.
Leveraging technology, we enabled nearly all of our home office professionals, and many within our branches, to work from home — communicating with our clients and one another via telephone, WebEx, webinars, secure text and online access.
We also redeployed hundreds of service professionals within the first few days of the crisis to critical service functions to deal with increased call volumes from clients and branch team requests brought about by the uncertainty and resulting market volatility. Our systems and technology have performed extremely well during this environment.
In addition our firms continued focus is supporting the productivity of our branch teams with digital and mobile technology to serve our clients.
Communicate in a Timely, Clear and Consistent Way
With so much changing on a daily basis, we communicated quickly and consistently to our clients as well as our associates.
We provided updates to our clients through emails sent by our financial advisors, to not only inform them of the changes we were making, but also offer guidance about staying on track to reach their long-term goals.