What You Need to Know
- A panel of advisory firm executives discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the business.
- Some say the pandemic has changed the way business is done forever.
- Other challenges include investing amid continued near-zero interest rates and requests for cryptocurrencies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many financial advisory firms do business, and many of those changes will persist.
“The genie is out of the bottle, and nobody is thinking ‘I’m going back to exactly the way things were,’ ” said Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management, who spoke on a panel about the future of post-COVID wealth management at this week’s SALT conference in New York.
The work-at-home arrangements and online meetings with staff that have allowed firms to operate during the pandemic will continue, according to Brown. His firm has always been heavily virtual but has a New York City office for staff and client visits.
Before the pandemic, it would hold offsite conferences and other get-togethers. But that ended with the pandemic, save for a few young staff members allowed back in the office last summer to escape their cramped apartments in Manhattan or Brooklyn, Brown said.
Firms such as the Bahnsen Group, however, fully reopened their offices at the height of the pandemic. Founder David Bahnsen, who was also on the panel with Brown and Aureus Asset Management co-founder and CEO Karen Firestone, mandated in May 2020 that all 35 of the firm’s employees return to the office.
“I built the firm around a certain culture. … The brand matters [and] interaction in the office is important for us,” Bahnsen said.
Firestone started welcoming back staff and partners July 6 after everyone had been fully vaccinated.
“Now there are some days when everyone is back in the office and days when some partners, especially those with small children, are working from home. … We can do it virtually. I don’t think it’s as much fun, [but] I think this will change the way we do business forever,” she said.
Ritholtz Wealth Management, too, has taken a hybrid approach to reopening the office. Brown said every Thursday when he’s in the office he sees more people coming back to work there, including some staff from outside New York who are visiting. All visitors must be vaccinated.
“There is something important culturally about getting together in person,” Brown said.