Many financial advisors experienced some stagnation in their business as they adopted a wait-and-see attitude to the COVID-19 crisis. Advisors, like most workers, have been stuck working from home for over six months and many still have no return-to-the-office date in sight. The need for financial advice did not go away because of the pandemic—in fact, it increased—but actively growing a financial advisory business in these times requires some adjustment in approach.
The reality is that, in the face of uncertainty and economic fallout, there may be more opportunities to help yourself and your clients thrive. The ongoing crisis offers the perfect time to focus on self-development and professional development, and doing so offers a path to success and growth.
Capitalizing on Core Competencies
When the pandemic hit, financial advisors were better prepared to handle working remotely than many other businesses. At independent firms, advisors and their staff were equipped with technology to continue helping clients remotely. In this situation specifically, advisors need to recognize the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset, including constant work on the business and the courage to act.
Establishing an encouraging environment helps advisors and their team add new skills while still focusing on their core competencies. If an advisor is skilled in 401(k) solutions, they should continue to push efforts toward their strongest capabilities and outsource to other experts when necessary.
As business picks back up, financial advisors need the right work processes, capabilities and tools to capitalize on these skills. Advisors should be innovative and use this time to gain knowledge, adjust their firm’s workflow, and learn to manage operations more efficiently and effectively.
Establishing the Right Environment
To better manage their book of business, advisors mustn’t take on the role of being “everything for everyone.” The reality is that not every advisor is well equipped to handle every client’s problems. Instead of fearing they will lose that client, advisors should be in the right environment where they will be supported and can lean on their team for advice, or refer their client over to that person.
People want to connect with financial advisors they can get to know and trust. Establishing a customer-centric culture, especially in these stressful times, turns them into longtime clients. By getting the support they need, advisors are able to better serve their clients.
This is particularly important during the pandemic, when clients are dealing with unprecedented situations and need sound guidance and reassurance. It also keeps a financial advisor’s name in mind among clients, particularly those in the position to refer new business.
Finding New Business
Financial advisors do not sell particular investment products; they sell a relationship built on trust. However, COVID-19 has made it more difficult for advisors who rely on in-person client interaction and networking to build new business relationships.
Marketing in financial services is about capturing the attention of the right people. However, getting to know new people today is not easy. Many traditional sources of new business are not meeting these days, making it hard to introduce oneself or even start a relationship.
As a result, marketing in today’s world requires using tools remotely and creatively to find a niche client base that helps focus on marketing efforts. This puts more emphasis on social media marketing, which has an undeniably wide reach.
Access to solid marketing resources is a key part of being able to continue to brand yourself and your firm during this time. Independent advisors should be supported by their firm by providing them with platforms and tools that advisors can easily access to communicate with their current clients and prospective clients.
Webinars and podcasts have been extremely effective in relaying the right message to clients. They are much more personal, and these days, the human element is vital in truly capturing someone’s attention. Now is the time for financial advisors to get their names out in the market and consider new ways of building partnerships and relationships.
Focusing on Self-Development
When growing a business, it is easy to forget about growing one’s own skills and character. However, success as an independent financial advisor requires a continuous improvement mindset. Each advisor brings their own circumstances, experience and approach to the effort but also brings their shortcomings and areas of weakness.
Focusing on self-development makes advisors stronger and a more versatile and knowledgeable asset for clients. Take advantage of time that might have been spent commuting or running between meetings to enhance skills, study for a new license or otherwise work on self-development.
Another area to develop is collaboration skills, both within the firm and within the industry. Some financial advisors have found working remotely stressful, with back-to-back Zoom meetings and concerns about what staff may (or may not) be doing.
Additionally, some advisors have found speaking with peers to be cathartic during the pandemic. Try sharing tips and ideas with other advisors to boost marketing and morale.
Further, while they're at home, advisors are increasingly recognizing the opportunity to spend more time with family and become a more active and effective spouse or parent. Building a solid family structure is an act of self-care and stress management that provides the support many advisors need to become better at their work. In the long run, advisors who fail to realize this and act on it may fall short compared with those who devote attention to family roles.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, but it has also offered an opportunity to reevaluate lives and businesses. Financial advisors know there is a huge need for their services. During the COVID-19 crisis, they have an opportunity to enhance their personal and professional development in ways that will build their business as the world recovers.
Todd Resnick is the president and co-founder of One Seven, an SEC-registered investment advisor providing a business management platform to financial advisors, and pioneered 7-Tool Advisor, a self-development and practice management program for advisors.