Financial professionals have had to figure out how best to serve their clientele remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic, and new data shows the vast majority plan to continue doing so through the end of the year.

A new survey released Thursday by Incapital finds that 41% of professionals will communicate with clients primarily by phone for the rest of the year, while 36% will use virtual video tools — Zoom favored by 48% and WebEx by 28%.

Only 23% of respondents said they would meet with their clients in person this year.

A recent report noted that investors favor maintaining new, remote modes of communication once the pandemic subsides.

Three in four professionals in the Incapital survey said they are communicating more frequently with clients in 2020 than they did last year.

Incapital, an underwriter and distributor of fixed income securities and risk management investment solutions, sponsored the online survey, which was conducted via Qualtrics by Red Zone Marketing in mid-June among 641 wealth managers, fiduciaries, financial planners and brokers from more than 50 broker-dealers and RIAs.

Working Safely

Half of financial professionals surveyed said they expected to return to their offices in July, 30% said by October and 17% said they would not return until 2021. Forty-nine percent reported they had a written plan to return to their offices, including 61% of the 99 top producers with $800,000 or more of production.

In addition, three in five survey participants said they had announced safety measures that will be in place to protect both clients and employees, chief among them providing hand sanitizer and spacing out appointments.

Just 24% said face masks would be required or optional, while 9% said they would provide masks.

When meeting with a client or prospect, 67% of participants said they would not require any health-status sharing, while 11% will require a client or prospect to show proof of recent testing.

One in five said they would share their team’s health test results with clients or prospects.

“We found that financial professionals remain optimistic about their business going forward; while most don’t plan to see clients in person anytime soon, they are adapting to the new realities of serving clients safely by embracing technology and increasing communications frequency,” Chris Mee, Incapital’s head of wealth management solutions distribution, said in a statement.

“They are also growing increasingly confident with virtual prospecting to drive their business growth despite the crisis.”

Optimism in 2020

According to the survey, financial professionals put their confidence level in the economy at seven on a scale with 10 indicating the highest confidence level.

Incapital said this may explain why many professional are optimistic about revenue for 2020.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they expected revenue growth of more than 10% this year, with 7% foreseeing growth of at least 30%. Another 38% said they expected growth of 0% to 10%.

In contrast, 19% said they expected 2020 revenue to range from flat to -20%, with 6% looking at a drop of more than 20%.

Thirty-eight percent said they would serve more households this year than in 2019, while 50% expected to serve the same number and 12% fewer.

Survey participants said the biggest potential barriers to the success of their business moving forward were repeated office shutdowns, volatile markets and social/physical distancing requirements.

Other barriers to success that may have been more significant before COVID-19 erupted now rank lowest: lower fees, increasing competition and margin compression.

New Business Strategies

Financial professionals have embraced the use of technology to drive new business, according to the survey results.

Sixty-seven percent said they were confident they could attract new business through virtual meetings, and 62% reported that they had already conducted a virtual prospecting meeting.

For top producers, the percentages were much higher, at 78% and 74%, respectively.

Almost all those surveyed said they were comfortable meeting with prospects virtually. Nearly half said they would host in-person events in 2020.

The survey found that the 99 top producers are currently using these strategies to drive their growth:

  • Virtual educational seminars – 51%
  • Asking for referrals from clients and/or strategic alliances – 50%
  • Email campaigns – 33%
  • LinkedIn prospecting – 30%
  • Live educational seminars – 29%
  • Social media advertising – 28%
  • Facebook prospecting – 25%

“Clearly, the pandemic has changed everyone’s lives,” Mee said. “From an investment standpoint, it has created an enormous amount of uncertainty, which means the role of the financial professional to help clients understand and weather this storm has never been greater.”

He noted that professionals were embracing new communication technologies and increasing the frequency of client contact, while also using a variety of strategies to sustain and grow their business.

“There will be a lot of lessons learned coming out of this crisis — and many of those lessons will help elevate the financial professional/client relationship to even greater levels of success.”

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