In this edition of International Investment's Lockdown Interviews, Gary Robinson puts the questions to Steve Andrews, managing director, Novia Global, who has seen a productivity boost for the company as well as an uplift in his own personal fitness during lockdown.
GR: How has covid-19 lockdown affected how you work generally?
SA: Overall not too different day to day, but like most people in our industry the obvious exception is now having to work from home and the suspension of business travel, meetings in person, commuting to the office and instead having to quickly get to grips with online video conferencing technology such as Zoom, Teams etc.
The crisis allowed us to cut back on travel and face to face meetings, while still meeting the needs of advisers, thus giving a productivity boost that we will strive to maintain" - Steve Andrews, MD, Novia Global.
GR: Describe where have you been working during lockdown and how are you coping with more remote working, i.e. the work/life balance?
SA: I am fully set up to be working from home and have been using Zoom and Teams for video conference calls both with clients and my team here at Novia Global. We are embracing this new way of working under lockdown and are anticipating carrying over some efficiencies such as hosting meetings remotely.
Given the lack of travelling, lockdown has also provided me with a rare opportunity to stick to a new fitness and exercise regime!
GR: What are the biggest challenges a) for the industry and b) advisers?
SA: To ensure that business continuity plans could be rolled out quickly and securely for a smooth transition to remote working, ensuring minimal disruption both internally at Novia Global and for our supporting advisers. I am very pleased with the feedback that we have received from advisers in terms of the service we offer and our back office teams have put in a fantastic effort to ensure that we have remained well within our usual service standards at all times during the current crisis.
With only a gradual reduction in the lockdown restrictions anticipated, it is essential that advisers and providers alike continue to adapt to the prevailing circumstances and embrace the ‘new normal' going forwards.
Any providers that have been found wanting in terms of supporting advisers in the current circumstances will find it difficult to retain support going forwards and advisers will appreciate those that did, making them the long term winners with strengthened business relationships.
GR: How has Novia Global changed how it deals with and supports brokers, clients and advisers internationally?
SA: As an online platform with digital new business processes we have not had to make many changes to our existing processes and have only moved to accept scan copies where any supplementary signed forms are required as part of our processes.
Communication is vital at a time like this, so we have ramped up our adviser communications via email mailshots, linkedin.com updates and webinars. In addition to this we have been picking up the telephone to speak directly with our key partners and that has been particularly well received - surprisingly we seem to be in the minority by still utilising this "traditional" way of connecting with people.
GR: How important has technology been during lockdown?
SA: Vital, not only for the smooth adoption of our own BCP but also for advisers too. We operate in a global market where most of our supporting advisers work remotely to some degree and were already geared up for client meetings at home using video conference tools. As a result, we did not see any major disruption and in fact, April was one of our best ever months in terms of new business received.
Our online trading function was also key for us, especially in the early stages of the crisis where we saw a lot of market volatility. That fact that we do not use manual processes means advisers can be confident in our automated dealing process and clients are able to action their requests in a timely manner.
We have also used online tools to ensure internal communication is maintained whilst staff are working away from the office. One example of this is the video conference calls that we have with different parts of the business on Monday, Wednesday & Friday to ensure that nobody is out of the loop in terms of what is going on in the wider market and also in order that existing projects can run smoothly to completion, with input from any relevant internal stakeholders.
GR: What lasting impact will covid-19 have in international advice market?
SA: There will be many impacts that will start to reveal themselves once we start to navigate ourselves safely out of the current restrictions. Technology will play an essential part in the daily lives of advisers more so than ever before and in turn this might evidence itself in terms of more remote working practices and smaller office space environments.
From conversations I have had recently, there are likely to be reduced needs in the future with space requirements simply needed to meet face to face client meetings.
Over the longer term global governments will have to start repaying the debts that they have accrued in bailing out their respective economies and we are likely to see significant legislation changes in order to facilitate this. However, as with other crises that we have encountered in previous decades, I am sure that where there are changes made there will also be opportunities that advisers and providers alike will seek to maximise with appropriate client solutions.
The crisis allowed us to cut back on travel and face to face meetings, while still meeting the needs of advisers, thus giving a productivity boost that we will strive to maintain.