Raymond James executives who lead the firm's Women's Network 2020 Advisor Debbie Crownover (top left); Andrea Linger, Practice Management manager and head of Women Canadian Advisors Network (top right); Renée Baker, head of Advisor Inclusion Networks (lower right); Regional Director Kelly Anderson and Kjerstan Lazar, first vice president of Wealth Management (lower left)

This year hasn’t been easy. From shifting operations following COVID-19 outbreaks, to market volatility, to social injustices, it’s been a heavy year. 

Unprecedented challenges that this year has brought have exposed some of our greatest weaknesses, but it’s also brought to light one of our society and industry’s strengths: resilience. 

It’s a word that I’ve often used to describe our Women Financial Advisors Network, which has carried on for 26 years straight with our annual Women’s Symposium. It seems neither hurricanes in the past, nor in this year’s case a global pandemic can keep the Women’s Symposium at bay. 

If you’ve ever been to one of the symposiums, you know there is a unique energy in the room. It’s an energy that is certainly challenging to duplicate and translate through screens. 

Yet, as with all things in 2020, the silver lining is that now more than ever, we are extremely accepting of and adaptable to change.  

Bringing the Women’s Symposium to a virtual format could not replace the truly unique in-person feel, but what it did this year was bring together the largest ever group of women advisors and prospects in the history of the Women’s Symposium.

With resilience as our theme, we kicked off our three-day virtual conference in mid-September with a record number of over 1,480 registrants, more than 750 women advisors from throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and more than 40 prospective women advisors, all tuning in through live and on-demand sessions. 

The Biggest Changes

During the conference, advisors candidly shared the challenges they’re facing and the biggest changes this environment has brought. 

Most challenging was the lack of in-person contact with clients, many of whom are retirees who previously weren’t very comfortable with technology. 

The unrealistic expectation to suddenly be a “Jill of all trades,” serving as an advisor, a super mom, a teacher, a chef, a cleaner, and more… simultaneously. The fear of not delivering in all of these significant areas of our lives is relatable.

Other women advisors felt the current circumstances have offered some unique benefits that they aren’t sure would have come about otherwise. 

For many, the lack of travel and commutes have offered them more flexibility, giving them time to get back to basics to zero in and focus on not only what’s important to them, but to now also have the freedom to pursue it. 

The Way Forward

So with continued uncertainty on when things will return to “normalcy,” study groups and panels focused on how to continue adapting and thriving in our “new normal.” 

Liz Stiles, director of practice management coaching, sat down with top advisors Ilona Box and Danielle Blunt to share best practices from client communication, to client retention and business development, to team management:

  • Consider sending out surveys to clients based on the changing environment. What do they prefer in terms of how often they want to hear from you? Input their preferences into CRM to help you create new client workflows. The more digitized you can get, the less you have to worry about whether you missed any touch base opportunities with your clients.
  • For traditionally social teams that are very event-driven, translate your events to a virtual landscape via regularly occurring virtual events or happy hours. Many feel the pandemic has given them a glimpse into social isolation, so this is a great strategy for keeping your clients and teams feeling connected on a social level.
  • Adapt to what your clients want/need. Consider weekly or bi-weekly webinars and solicit feedback from registrants. This is not only a way to share your expertise with clients and keep them informed, but it’s also a tool that can be used with prospective clients. Though it may take several months to convert cold leads to clients, it’s been a valuable business development opportunity in this ongoing environment.
  • Be sure to request registration prior to each webinar to help you track attendance and engagement with different content. No doubt, your teams have been integral to your practice over the past several months, so do not forget about their needs! 
  • Focus on processes and working with your team to adjust, but take time to recognize them and build in tasks or stretch goals that will keep them engaged, fulfilled, and truly invested in the success and future of your practice.

A Unique Event

In addition to our study groups and panels, I was so humbled to listen to our tremendous speakers this year. 

Dr. Dambisa Moyo discussed what will define the post-pandemic world economy and our keynote speaker Diana Nyad, who is an incredible example of resilience and inspiration for “finding a way.” 

At 64, in her fifth and final attempt, Diana fulfilled her lifelong dream of completing the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida in a 53-hour journey.

As with every Women’s Symposium, advisors benefited from networking and sharing best practices, albeit virtually this year. 

But different this year was the sense of collective experience, true camaraderie, and overwhelming support from hundreds of women across three countries, during a year when many of us seem to have needed it the most. 

And for that, I’m thankful for what turned out to be a truly unique and memorable 26th Women’s Symposium.

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Renée Baker is Head of Advisor Inclusion Networks at Raymond James, which includes the Women Financial Advisors Network, Pride Financial Advisors Network, and Black Financial Advisors Network.