The Covid-19 pandemic has upended how we live and work. It thrust us rapidly into an existence that hardly anybody had previously thought was possible.
Social distancing and having to work from home have stressed the operating models of almost every service business. How do you establish and sustain strong relationships with clients when you can't meet with them?
Technology has offered some help. It's difficult to imagine how much more difficult lockdown would have been without email, web conferencing and social media.
However, it cannot completely replace personal interactions.
Separate and apart
Possibly the worst thing about the coronavirus pandemic is that it requires us to think the worst of ourselves. We have to assume both that we could be infecting anyone that we interact with, and that anyone we interact with could be infecting us.
There is no room for trust. If the research is correct that a majority of people who have the virus show no symptoms, then we have no choice but to stay away from everybody.
This has profound consequences for society. Humans have always known that our strength lies in the ability to work together to overcome our challenges. That is true whether those challenges are sabre-toothed tigers or fascism.
We are therefore limiting our own potential by forcing ourselves to remain apart.
Doing the job
In a recent interview, the CEO of Nucleus Financial Group, David Ferguson, said:
“There is a good reason we don't choose to live our lives like this all of the time. It's great to get little efficiencies here or there… but I don't think any of us want to live in a society where this is the way the world is.”
This sentiment should resonate with financial advisers everywhere. Not just because they would agree that it is difficult to do their jobs remotely, but because it should remind them of what the job actually is.
Why do people seek out financial advisers in the first place? Consider that many advisers have advisers of their own. So it's not because they don't necessarily feel equipped to make financial decisions.
What clients want is the support of someone who will look out for their interests. They want to have a partner in their financial journey that they can trust.
What is it you are doing?
The coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity for advisers to reflect on this. In times when you are forced to do things differently, it's worthwhile giving serious consideration to why you are doing them in the first place.
Even before Covid-19, there was a growing conversation in the business world about the concept of purpose. This was largely driven by the need for companies to think about the role they should be playing in the climate crisis. However, this massive disruption to the global economy has made it important to think about this even more broadly.
Why does any business exist? What need is it fulfilling? What benefit is it providing to society?
Financial advisers should be asking these questions of themselves, and defining their purpose, as much as any other business should.
For the people
The answers for many advisers may come into clearer focus because they have not been able to interact with their clients in the same way. This would have reminded them that their business really is people.
One of the greatest criticisms of financial advice is that too often the client is not actually seen as the client. Their money is. That is what has led to many of the conflicts and contradictions that have damaged the industry's reputation.
For advisers who have a clear purpose, however, this problem shouldn't arise. If they are truly independent, and their clients' long-term well-being is explicitly their only concern, then the clients' money becomes a means towards success, not the end.
In this time of such upheaval, having this kind of clarity of thought is even more important than ever. We are all looking for someone to trust. Advisers who can offer that are going to be the ones who emerge from this strongest.
Picture: Mark Fletcher-Brown via Unsplash
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