Virtual is here to stay—that's a good thing

Male investment advisor using laptop

Everyone talks about getting back to "normal." But some changes are for the better. The pandemic accelerated digital adoption and our ability to work in a virtual world. Now that most businesses and schools are open and running at full capacity, what's worth keeping from our sudden virtual transformation and what's best to let go? 

Keep it: Lower costs

If your firm didn't already have a lot of digital technology in place in 2020, you might have had to scramble to implement cloud-based collaboration tools, video conferencing software, and voice over IP (VoIP) phones. Many firms also took their CRM systems and portfolio management software online. And many advisors began using Schwab's digital tools such as move money and eAuthorization (which allows your clients to digitally approve transactions).

While the transition might have increased operational costs in the short-term, many firms are now seeing cost savings and increased productivity thanks to digital platforms and tools—especially if the firm transitioned from high-maintenance servers or software that was inefficient and inflexible.

Some firms also downsized their office space to adjust to the reality that many staff members no longer come into the office five days a week. Even firms that went back to the office quickly often allow staff members to work virtually one or two days a week. Less office space ultimately means lower overhead costs, which is good for profitability. 

Keep it: Video meetings

advisor client meeting online

Nothing can replace meeting face-to-face, but video conferencing offers a lot of benefits, especially for clients who don’t live close to your office or need a few more opportunities to check in. 

Virtual meetings can also be surprisingly intimate. When clients are at home, in comfortable spaces, without the stress of having to fight traffic and find parking, they can relax and open up. 

Virtual meetings are also easier to schedule. There's no travel time to factor in. Clients can still meet if they're on vacation or visiting family. One or two clicks and everyone's there ready to talk.

And virtual meetings can be incredibly collaborative. With the right tools, you can let clients make notes on your presentation, add information to shared documents, and make real-time adjustments to their portfolios. What might have been a confusing email in the past can now be a working session to help a client make an urgent change.

Let it go: Isolation

Virtual meetings can be incredibly collaborative. What might have been a confusing email in the past can now be a working session to help a client make an urgent change. 

Those who managed to stay healthy throughout the first year of the pandemic often sacrificed a lot to do so. They couldn't meet with friends, colleagues, or clients. Casual conversations in the hallways and lunches at local restaurants were gone. Of course, people still met online, but that didn't mean they didn't feel alone.

Many investment advisory firms now take a hybrid approach to virtual. Staff members might not come into the office every day, but they get to be among colleagues again. Many clients welcome the chance to see you in-person, even if you're both masked up in an outdoor space. Make sure to take those opportunities to get out and make those connections.

Keep it: Flexibility

advisor work flexibility

Even in the best of times, women often do more than their fair share to keep up the house and take care of kids. Plus, many women take care of aging parents. McKinsey and LeanIn.org conducted a study that found that working women spend 20 hours more than men per week handling housework and childcare.1 It's one reason why Cerulli's 2020 U.S. Advisor Metrics study found that 84% of women in the financial services industry said that one of their top challenges was work-life imbalance.2 

When the pandemic hit, everyone was forced to stay at home. Suddenly, flexibility wasn't optional. It was the only way any of us could survive—especially for many working women.

Many firms learned to embrace flexibility and, in the process, have made themselves more attractive places to work, for women and men. At a time when advisor talent is shrinking, and there are so few women in the industry, flexibility will be important for firms that want to grow.

Let it go: Tech phobia

The way you've always done things might be comfortable right now, but it might not be what's best for your clients or your firm in the long run. The digital leap firms and clients made in 2020 was a positive step forward. Many more clients learned to do business digitally, which saved everyone time and improved the accuracy of paperwork that might have needed a lot of data reentry.
 
Don't lose that momentum.

Embrace digital account management. Consider AI tools that can help you rebalance portfolios. And integrate your software so that every time you look at a client record, you're seeing the full picture.

The transformation we've seen over the last few years offers a lot of benefits for you and your clients. Don't be afraid to embrace them.

What you can do next

  • Discover how Schwab's technology offerings can help your practice deliver exceptional service with less effort.
  • Check out Schwab Alliance, the online and mobile platform designed exclusively for clients of independent advisors.
  • Consider a custodian that invests in your success. If you're thinking about becoming an independent advisor, contact us to learn more about the benefits of a Schwab custodial relationship.