Two Trends, Two Themes: Adapting to the Post-Pandemic RIA Industry
RIA firms of all sizes are still in the process of coming to grips with the evolving advisory environment — especially in light of the tectonic shifts imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it may be too soon to claim arrival at a “new normal,” some trends are starting to come into better focus, and the firms that are already preparing themselves to thrive under these developing conditions will be the strongest candidates for industry leadership in the coming months and years.
Let’s look at two such trends joined by two common themes: technology and people. The financial services industry has always been focused on both, and in the emerging post-pandemic RIA industry, these two pillars of our business are coming into more detailed relief in interconnected ways.
Building the team — virtually
As many hiring managers across various industries are discovering, remote work is going to remain on the table for the foreseeable future. The radical overhaul of procedures, policies, and technology that made possible the forced migration to the virtual office let the genie out of the bottle, and from all appearances, it isn’t going back in, anytime soon. But how does “virtual” work in a business built on relationships?
We see thriving RIA firms embracing the move to “the cloud” and to wider use and acceptance of digital solutions and delivery systems, all within the context of effectively maintaining relationships even when a real-time face-to-face experience is impossible or not preferred. This move has in turn enabled greater flexibility in work arrangements and resulted in greater competitiveness in hiring. As noted by a recent article in Forbes, retention of key employees will be among the top challenges for financial advisory firms in 2022, and the RIAs who can leverage the technological strengths of the virtual office are more likely to position themselves to successfully meet this challenge.
“This is the flight deck…”
The last time you were on a bumpy flight, didn’t you find it comforting when the pilot came on the intercom to assure you that everything was under control? Similarly, the turbulence of the pandemic brought home (again) the fundamental need that clients have to hear from their financial advisors when the going gets choppy. Meeting this need during the pandemic, however, was complicated by the barriers to traditional modes of communication. As mentioned above, the RIAs who went all-in for technological solutions that enabled them to keep in touch virtually reaped the benefits of increased client confidence.
Not only that, but the rapid move toward greater dependence on technological solutions for client communication is unlikely to reverse in the near term. According to a study by SmartAsset.com, 41% of advisors reported more frequent communications with clients during the pandemic, while a scant 3% indicated that the volume of communication decreased. Of that 41%, well over half indicated that they — the advisors — had initiated most of the communication. Also, some 30% of advisors surveyed indicated that they expected to continue using video conferencing with clients even after pandemic restrictions were completely lifted, as compared to about 2% who preferred video conferencing before the pandemic.
When advisors are open and nimble, they can find efficiencies for their practices which in turn allow them to meet their clients where they are versus only at 123 Main Street, Suite 1.
At Beyond AUM, we understand that change isn’t the only constant: the other one is people. When teams are happy, they make happy clients. When clients are happy and engaged, they make better referrals. Reach out to discuss how we help our clients both build stronger teams and reach their client engagement goals.