Research shows that a significant majority of advisers want flexible work arrangements after the pandemic. And there are certainly advantages to remote working. Yet in a sector in which face- to-face meetings were a central daily activity, many advisers and firms have struggled to maintain levels of motivation and corporate identity. Leaders now face the challenge of reimagining processes to support their workforces in a world in which digital really is first.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the new ways of working that were forced upon us have actually done us good. One recent report found clients even prefer advisers to take part in short update calls instead of lengthy annual reviews in person. And widely held assumptions that prospects and clients mistrust technology have been called into question by the pandemic. We’ve discovered that, actually, ad-hoc video calls are much more convenient for everyone.
That’s great. But many advisers today find their days filled with endless Zoom calls. On those calls, they’re asking repetitive questions, completing lengthy forms and conducting desk research. And often calls with new prospects won’t lead to new business. Today advisers are less likely to meet clients in-person and with many continuing to work from home, they’re not in social settings with their colleagues. The net effect is that many advisers are feeling overworked and that their daily activities are less rewarding than they were pre-pandemic.
So what can leaders do to improve staff morale, maintain talent and increase business productivity?
The first step is to acknowledge that the old, office-centric ways of conducting business are not coming back as they were. Then, be intentional about establishing the tools and processes to increase touch points between employees, teams, and customers. Don’t let staff drift. Consider how to engage them and communicate how their work adds value to the organisation and why it’s important to the company’s strategic vision.
The coronavirus crisis has accelerated digital adoption. Meanwhile, a customer base of younger – and digitally oriented – consumers has emerged through the pandemic, seeking out support to better manage their wealth. And existing customers – across all age groups – have become used to being served online.
Leaders need to consider how they organise their teams around these emerging trends. How can they capture these online audiences and how can they ensure the onboarding process is integrated to create a good user experience and streamline staff productivity? Advice firms thinking about where tomorrow’s customers will come from have restructured and reimagined the role technology can play.
A survey by Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) found that 85 per cent of respondents said tech should complement, but not replace, human advice. Meanwhile, a separate survey indicated that consumers actually trust robots more than humans to handle their finances. But that doesn’t mean technology is a competing force.
Quite the contrary. Automated advice can remove almost all the administrative burden placed on advisers. Background information, fact finding and customer onboarding, for example, can be conducted prior to an initial adviser meeting. This means when the adviser shows up on a call they can add 100 per cent of their time adding value to the customer, rather than frustrating their prospects with endless questions. Our internal data shows that 95 per cent of clients who have been sent fact finding elements to pre-complete, prior to a planned meeting, have completed them, saving between 30 and 45 minutes of call time, time that has been better spent focused on client objectives. And that’s more than what you’d expect when going through the same process with a human.
The benefits of technology go beyond improving the customer experience. By supporting staff intelligently, automation stands to significantly boost productivity, reach new audiences and give staff back their time and sense of purpose. Just imagine how much more motivated an adviser is when they’re able to focus on adding value to a customer’s financial position, rather than spending hours each day on fact finding calls.
Adapting to a hybrid environment will require some trial and error, but companies that invest time and resources into new processes will thrive.
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