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All An Advisor Needs Is a Bad Internet Connection and Old Laptop

Schwab found that the coronavirus crisis has accelerated its advisors' move to digital.

When the city of Houston got shut down due to the coronavirus, Mark Radulovich, founder and partner of Prota Financial, quickly packed up a few things and took his family to his sister’s place in Breckenridge, Colo.

“We stayed there for five weeks,” he said. “I had a bad Internet connection and an old MacBook Air I brought along just in case and yet I was able to continue running my practice and onboard a half-dozen new clients from there.”

He credited Schwab’s digital account opening and onboarding process with the easy transition his firm was able to make to remote working.

“If you are opening 25 accounts, five accounts each for five different families, that is a lot to keep track of, especially in the past with paper forms,” he said, noting that he had helped his clients open accounts with the digital process within five to 10 minutes.

Lauren Wilkinson, Schwab’s vice president of digital advisor solutions, amplified Radulovich’s experience in what she’s hearing from Schwab advisors and seeing in the firm's data during the COVID-19 crisis.

 “We’ve been seeing digital adoption continuously over time, even before the current shelter-in-place situation but in the last six-to-eight weeks we have seen a great spike in workflow adoption,” Wilkinson said.

She said one-third of advisors are now using Schwab’s digital account opening workflow process and not-in-good-order (NIGO) rates dropped from about 30% using paper-based account opening to the single digits.

The process has resulted in 90% of new clients signing up for paperless documents and 75% of money transfers being processed digitally.

Justyn Volesko, managing partner at AJ Wealth in New York City with just under $1.5 billion in AUM, said a silver lining of the crisis is that it pushed the firm to become more digital.

He said his firm has secure access from home to all the platforms and tools available in the office, and they have been holding far more video conferences with clients, something he hopes will continue once things return to normal.

“The crisis has really tested our business contingency plans—and it has been pretty seamless actually,” he said.

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