The COVID-19 virus has, in some cases, incapacitated multiple members of a family. Advisors may want to consider adding additional supplemental contact people to a client’s file. Where they may have only asked for a client’s spouse or close contact, they may now want to ensure that they have at least three people who could act on a client’s financial behalf if need be.
For almost everyone, the response of governments to the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted both their long term financial picture as well as their everyday financial experience. Surveys are showing that many of those seeking out financial advisors are new to working with an advisor or haven’t sought individual advice before. Given that most financial advisors are feeling a crush of work while trying to work from home, we thought it would be helpful to reiterate the top tips for working with new clients.
At the heart of all of these best practices is a solid onboarding practice. Your firm may have an excellent onboarding practice when you were working together, in an office, with well linked computers, printers and phones. But with many working from home on a variety of platforms, and employees juggling new and sometimes remarkably frustrating home schedules, that onboarding practice may need freshening up. And, as many have noted, they had no idea how terrible their WiFi was at home until everyone tried to get on it at once.
The best onboarding practice starts with early communication. Just as an advisor’s communication options may be limited, so too might the clients’. All the more reason to reach out frequently to make sure all questions were asked and answered, and that all information was received in full.
Be proactive about protecting client data. It may feel frustrating to rely on your firm’s virtual private network (VPN) (sometimes referred to by its most common platform called Citrix) and the temptation to switch over to a non-encrypted system, like Gmail or Yahoo, is high; resist it. Hackers are in high gear in this Corona Chaos and gathering ranks as more folks stay out of work. Review your firm’s security protocols frequently with your IT department or vendor to make sure they are operating well. You can also refer to last month’s newsletter on how to improve your VPN experience. We’ve also covered financial data and privacy (in the context of ERISA) and how to create an optimal cloud computing environment.
Level Set from the Get Go: Make sure that you and your new client understand expectations from the very beginning. This should include how and when communications happen, how quickly both of you can respond to important or urgent matters, and which services you can perform and which you can’t. You may find that having a set of recommendations or referrals at your fingertips helps with level setting. For example, explaining whether you can or can’t assist with tax preparation (based on your state’s regulations and your certification) might be easier if you already have three accountants to whom you can refer new clients. It’s tempting in a crisis to skip this step and go for the immediate needs – on both sides of the client relationship, but it’s absolutely crucial. Some sources recommend having outlines or checklists for this conversation so nothing gets missed. And, as noted above, communicate regularly about these expectation settings. Because it is a time of crisis, it is feasible that your client may not be operating at full speed and may need to hear information more than once or in more than one format.
Full Team Ahead. Not only does your client need to know when tasks will be handled by you versus a teammate, but teammates may need to be reminded of this as well. This may be especially true for unusual or infrequent tasks. When onboarding the new client, make sure the entire team gets as much information as possible. Just as an ER might get a warning that a major car crash is sending multiple patients to their unit so that they can be prepared before the ambulance arrives, so too should your team. Let them know that you are expecting higher than usual volume of new clients or a higher than usual volume of smaller asset clients. Whatever seems like it might be coming should be shared with your team.
Pandemic-specific issues. While every financial advisor collects information about powers of attorney and whom to contact if the client is incapacitated, now more than ever this information is absolutely critical. The COVID-19 virus has, in some cases, incapacitated multiple members of a family. Advisors may want to consider adding additional supplemental contact people to a client’s file. Where they may have only asked for a client’s spouse or close contact, they may now want to ensure that they have at least three people who could act on a client’s financial behalf if need be. Sadly, this may also be true for adding additional alternate beneficiaries to your onboarding materials as well.
Before leaping into the unknown, we recommend a thorough examination of your plan. Because we are experts in the field, we know the marketplace and know what your existing vendor is capable of offering. Through this examination, we can help you optimize the service you receive.get xpress proposal