The global pandemic changed the way businesses and consumers interact, and the investment industry was no exception. Prior to COVID-19, it was routine for advisors to meet face-to-face with clients. Whether it was an annual portfolio review or to discuss a particular financial issue, advisors used these meetings to build relationships, update clients on their accounts, and answer any questions clients had.
We all know what happened in early 2020. With lockdowns across the country, the traditional in-person meeting became unfeasible practically overnight. In its place, advisors rapidly moved online in various ways. Today, 48% of advisors use video calls to meet with clients. That’s up from only 2% before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, most people hadn’t heard of Zoom; now it’s a household name.
COVID-19 also led to greater demands being placed on advisors as client anxiety and engagement increased. For example, consider the heightened workload for advisors at the onset of the pandemic. According to research, client engagement across all channels soared sevenfold compared to the pre-pandemic norm. It’s not tough to understand why: The hit to both public health and the economy led to a surge in market volatility. Worried clients are more likely to pick up the phone or send an email, and there was no shortage of anxiety in March 2020.
Truth be told, the investment world was already moving in the digital direction before the pandemic. But COVID-19 greatly accelerated that shift. At the same time, consumers’ expectations of wealth management professionals have also been altered. According to one study, 68% of clients say the pandemic raised their expectations of an advisor’s digital capabilities. And 59% of respondents report that COVID-19 raised the level of creustomer care they expect from their advisor. Notably, clients want customer service that speaks to their needs and goals: 68% of survey respondents expect financial companies to be responsive to their unique situations and expectations.
When the pandemic hit, you could easily separate advisors into two distinct groups. On one hand, there were those with strong digital capabilities already in place. These professionals were well-suited to handle the dramatic rise in client communications in the first quarter of 2020. As a result, they were also more likely to have satisfied clients. On the other hand, advisors who lacked a strong digital presence struggled to adapt. For this less tech-savvy group, having to quickly learn and implement new processes was stressful and time-consuming — especially during a tumultuous market environment.
The Bottom Line
Eventually, the world will go back to some semblance of normal. But there is every reason to believe that clients’ expectations of investment advisors will remain elevated. That’s why advisors need to strengthen their digital capabilities and streamline their processes. The alternative — sticking with the status quo as it existed pre-pandemic — is asking for clients to move to an advisor who has already adapted to the brave new world.
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1 Salesforce, State of the Connected Customer, 2020.