The wealth management industry was forced to reset itself in 2020, and that is not a bad thing. The pain and suffering the world endured during the pandemic should not be minimized, but many of the changes we made have been positive for our industry.
The Emergence of Virtual Advisory Services
A brief trip back in time would reveal that just two short years ago there were still naysayers claiming that virtual advisory services were a “flash in the pan” and wouldn’t work long-term. Some even suggested that doing business virtually was a security and compliance risk.
The pandemic changed all of that. Wealth managers could no longer resist the move into a remote business model. Those who did found themselves struggling to maintain their client base. The rest of the world was meeting on Zoom. We had to do the same.
Another interesting side effect of the virtual advisory movement is that it has eliminated geographical boundaries. Advisory firms that embrace an online business model can do business anywhere, expanding their reach and increasing competition in the space.
The Development of a Remote-First Workplace
Blueleaf has been a remote-first company since we were founded, so most of the team works from home at least some of the time. The pandemic was tough on us in a number of ways, but we didn’t have to learn a new way to work.
Wealth management firms were forced to switch to a remote business model when state and federal authorities issued stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of Covid-19. The efficiencies and cost-effectiveness of this model were revealed early on, but some still fought it.
As the world opens up again, those who want things to “go back to normal” are finding that others enjoy their remote work schedule, particularly now that the kids are going back to school. Like the virtual advisory model, remote-first is here to stay.
The Creation of the New kind of “Hybrid”
The term hybrid has typically described an advisory firm that was dually registered as an RIA and with a broker dealer. The new hybrids do business in person and online. Welcome to the new normal.
This new approach has been embraced by progressive advisors who see the advantages of offering virtual advisory services but also recognize that some clients prefer more traditional meetings in person. We can do both. Those who do will thrive and grow.
Of course, operating virtually requires more than just a laptop, a Zoom account, and a webcam. Those are a start, but a true hybrid advisory firm needs to invest in the right client experience which includes reporting technology, automated online communication, and a good mobile app.
The silver lining in 2020 is that new technology is now accepted in the world of financial services. That was not always the case. Our historically conservative industry learned and evolved. That will help us move forward.
The Willingness to Embrace Change
During Covid-19, regulators who are slow to change in the best of times adapted to our collective circumstance and became more flexible, offering online meetings and other accommodations.
Custodians and wholesalers also found they needed to adapt. Their business model was dependent on live conferences and face-to-face sales pitches. That was no longer possible in 2020. All conferences went virtual.
These businesses adopted the same approach as their financial advisor customers. Meeting virtually, they found a new way to do business. Many of them may choose to continue that way. It’s more cost effective and less stressful.
Great forces often cause great change. That’s what has happened in wealth management. With our new willingness to embrace change, our industry is evolving toward living up to our potential. And that is a great reset.
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