In an industry that is dependent on the creation and building of personal relationships in order to thrive, the arrival of a sweeping, global pandemic that forces us to ‘keep our distance' from one another has the potential to cause significant upheaval, and extremely far-reaching disruption.
In financial and investment circles, the early stages of the spread of covid-19 were met with defiant resistance from forward-looking analysts, with conversations often pointing to the reality that economically "we've been here before," and that markets will absorb shocks as they have done so in years gone by.
What we didn't fully appreciate then, however, was the extent to which this pandemic would impact the financial advice industry and those that spend their working week meeting new and existing clients, advising them on managing their financial affairs now, and into the future.
Survey results confirmed that some advisers are ahead of the curve when it comes to using technology to attract new business leads, or facilitate the submission of business to product providers.
It was with this in mind that Hansard sought to reach out to the financial adviser community across the global regions in which it operates, with a short survey devised to capture the general mood of an industry facing the most peculiar of unprecedented changes.
Click on this video below to view some highlights of the survey
As our regional news networks have been quick to report, the arrival of covid-19 in various countries across the globe has been fairly staggered, depending on the extent to which the virus has been acknowledged, and the speed of local governments to act. For example, countries in Asia were moving into a lockdown scenario as early as February, whereas some countries in Latin America continued to operate as normal up until recently.
This regional variation was very much reflected in the responses that were received in the first survey question: ‘When are you hopeful of returning to holding face to face meetings with new and existing clients?" with advisers in Asia being much more optimistic of a return to normality soon, compared to over a third of those in MENA expect at least another three months to pass before they will meet clients face to face again.
Quick to adapt
In light of the immediate challenges they faced, it was clear from the responses to other questions in the survey that advisers had already started to think about how their usual new business channels may need to adapt too.
Globally, 39% of respondents cited existing client referrals as playing a pivotal role in their immediate new business plans, with over a third focussing on using social media as a means to facilitate introductions to new clients. Those companies that haven't previously embraced the power of lead generation through various social platforms may have some catching up to do with their peers.
Reasons to be optimistic
Despite the potentially dire outlook, respondents were generally unphased about the impact of the current environment on their ability to achieve sales targets, with Latin America being the only region where under half (44%) of advisers said that their target would remain the same (with 48% revising their target downwards).
By contrast, advisers in the MENA region were most likely to revise their targets upwards (14%). Only a quarter of advisers in Asia expected to revise their targets downwards. Again, these figures potentially being a reflection of the differing phases (and therefore degree of optimism) of exposure to the pandemic from one country to another.
Tech the enabler
A recurring theme throughout the survey was the shift in reliance on tech that advisers feel they will require in order to thrive throughout the course of the pandemic, wherever they may be. Survey results confirmed that some advisers are ahead of the curve when it comes to using technology to attract new business leads, or facilitate the submission of business to product providers. Conversely, getting to grips with this kind of technology presents an opportunity to learn new skills for others.
When asked to rank a number of areas in which tech will play fundamental role in the future, the responses were varied with Latin America choosing "Facilitating Introductions," Rest of the World: "Facilitating regular reviews," MENA: "Producing & submitting proposals" and Asia: "Facilitating fact finds."
The full results of the survey have been shared with everybody that took part, providing insight into how different regions compare to others, and how their own views may differ to those of their local peers. An interview with Hansards Global Sales & Marketing Director, Graham Morrall provides additional insight into Hansards general response to covid-19.
Hansard would like to thank all of the advisers that took the time to complete the survey at a peculiar time for the industry, and hope that the results provide encouragement that despite the immediate challenges that are faced, that financial advice will adapt and evolve, providing invaluable services to new and existing clients at a time that is, arguably, more appropriate now than ever.