Thanks to all the societal changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s safe to say that the wealth management industry will look very different in the years to come. By now, some of the potential long-term shifts seem pretty evident.
For example, virtual meetings are likely here to stay. It’s a similar story for business development, with more prospects than ever before open to establishing a relationship without having a physical meeting.
Meanwhile, when it comes to office space — the subject of so much conversation in recent months — most practices will likely think about whether they need to adopt a new approach.
But beyond the low-hanging fruit, it’s worth considering the other ways in which the current health crisis might impact our space. Here are some possible examples:
1. Rep as Portfolio Manager model could gain interest.
For years, an increasing number of financial professionals have abandoned the Rep as PM model in favor of third-party alternatives. For some, the added time that comes with offloading that critical task has been worth it.
For others, managing portfolios is how they differentiate themselves in the marketplace — so much so that they genuinely believe they’d lose clients if they did it any other way.
On the surface, it might seem like the pandemic could hasten the decline of the Rep as PM model even further. That’s because many longtime devotees, having had to lean on efficiency-boosting tech tools to stay online during the shutdowns, could have experienced an “aha” moment about the benefits associated with streamlining their operations.
That sounds good in theory, but don’t be surprised if the opposite happens. Indeed, with some clients open to virtual meetings, that could leave more time — in some cases entire days – for due diligence, research, collaboration with home office experts and everything else that goes into managing individual portfolios.
2. The industry begins to take succession and contingency planning more seriously.
Some practices were prepared when stay-at-home orders turned their operations upside down this spring.
For many others, though, the shift to a telecommuting model wasn’t as smooth, highlighting a problem that has loomed over the industry for years: Not enough financial professionals have robust contingency and continuity plans in place.
Part of the issue is that even though rules are in place mandating written business continuity plans, all it takes is the bare minimum to meet some of those requirements.
But this part of the business isn’t about checking off regulatory boxes — it’s about guarding against existential threats and protecting the interests of those who have placed their financial future in your hands.
If some good can come out of this, hopefully it’s that the entire industry starts to consider contingency and continuity issues with a new sense of urgency.
3. Softer skills and behavioral finance become foundational.
While active listening and acknowledging concerns have always been crucial in wealth management, these skills will take on added importance in the future.
Many clients are inherently emotional, even in the best of times, with some always waiting for the next shoe to drop. To them, after markets suffer through a couple of bad days, it’s a sign to move everything to cash.
The irony is that many clients who feel this way are often the same ones who are on track to meet all their goals and objectives.
These ‘sky-is-falling’ impulses will likely get worse going forward and are only exacerbated by the increasingly polarizing political environment.
Financial professionals should expect to spend more time reminding clients that investing is a long-term process, defined not by what happens each day, week or even quarter but what occurs over many years.
4. An explosion of recruiting and business development opportunities is on the horizon.
While more Americans are comfortable doing business and having meetings via video conferencing platforms, hold outs remain, including many in our industry.
It’s possible, therefore, once life returns to normal, that we’ll see not only the recruiting floodgates open, with thousands of financial professionals potentially deciding to switch firms, but clients re-assessing their options as well.
The pandemic has touched virtually every part of American life, the financial services space included. While many of the changes that have taken place are clear for all to see, there are many others just under the surface that could have just as big of an impact.
Elizabeth “Libet” Anderson is the president of ProEquities, a Birmingham, Alabama-based broker-dealer.