For many financial advisors, adjusting to life in lockdown has been an uphill battle – one riddled with the challenges of running a business remotely. For others, it has freed up time that would’ve otherwise been devoted to the daily activities of office life, like commuting, preparing bagged lunches and socializing with colleagues.
For better or worse, work is expected to remain this way for a while yet. So, for advisors who have found themselves with spare time, it’s worth using it wisely. Here are five ways advisors can sharpen their skills from home:
1. Take advantage of online learning
If there’s one upside to the world moving online, it’s that meetings are no longer limited to in-person attendance. More and more companies are taking advantage of this trend by hosting panel discussions, webinars and forums online, available for participation regardless of geography. If you’re looking for ways to fill your schedule, enrolling in a virtual class can help you come out of this crisis ahead when some semblance of normal life resumes.
For example, FP Canada’s educational arm, FP Institute, is hosting continuing education courses for financial planners online. “We’ve just seen a dramatic increase [in enrolment rates],” says Cary List, president and chief executive officer of FP Canada in Toronto.
He predicts that even as society begins to reopen, many institutions will continue offering courses online, so it’s not a bad idea to acclimate to online learning while you’re still stuck at home.
Even advisors with less free time than normal can find ways to work online learning into their schedules. Tahnya Parachuk, a certified financial planner, former financial advisor and marketing communications manager at Capital Group in Montreal, suggests recording video lectures and watching them over a few intervals throughout the day.
“If it takes 15 minutes each day for four days to attend the full hour, then it’s kind of at each advisor’s own pace, which I think is really great,” she says.
2. Hone your technology skills
The lockdown has shed light upon the vast potential of the internet. That makes now an ideal time to master a technology skill or platform that once gave you trouble.
George Hartman, president and CEO of Market Logics Inc. in Toronto, who coaches advisors on practice management matters, says several of his clients are “becoming aware of some of the possibilities” of technology while adjusting to remote work.
Specifically, they’re devoting extra time to enhancing their videoconferencing skills or learning about the nuances of their back-office technology and account-opening software. One client has even enrolled in an online typing course.
“He’s accelerated his speed on the keyboard and says it’s the best thing he’s ever done,” Mr. Hartman quips.
3. Improve your workflow
Life in lockdown has given many of Mr. Hartman’s advisor clients little choice than to confront the workflow challenges that may have plagued their businesses long before quarantine began.
“There’s nothing like a crisis. ... This is an opportunity because it draws your attention to what’s working well and what’s not working as well as you’d like it to,” he says.
One suggestion Mr. Hartman has made to advisors is to look at online calendaring software Calendly to facilitate the process of scheduling meetings. He adds that some of his clients are trying out new routines like daily office-wide meetings at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Both practices lend themselves well to staying organized during the current crisis but have a lot to offer beyond that as well.
The same principle extends to answering larger, more existential questions within your practice. Tasks like succession or disaster recovery planning can feel daunting, and they’re easy to put off. But the threat COVID-19 poses to many Canadians’ livelihoods is forcing advisors to tackle these topics.
“Continuity planning has become very popular [among advisors],” Mr. Hartman says, adding that many of his clients are developing strategies for the business to carry on if they fell ill or become disabled for an extended period of time.
4. Boost your marketing and communications strategy
Most advisors are fielding an unprecedented volume of questions from clients and prospects because of the current stock market volatility. That makes this an opportune time to try out new ways to market your practice and communicate with existing and prospective clients.
“During a time of crisis, communication is key. People are looking for information, not only about what's going on, but about what they should be doing,” Ms. Parachuk says.
She’s directed several advisors she works with to revamp their social media presence, starting with publishing blogs on LinkedIn. Those unfamiliar with the platform should start with simple summaries of news articles, current events, and experiences.
“Look to your real life,” Ms. Parachuk suggests. “If you attended a webinar, write a summary about it," she says. "Was there a recurring question that came up in your client meetings last week? Great, the masses will want to know about it, so write a 400- or 500-word blog post about that.”
She also suggests sharing blog posts as widely as possible, because each online platform offers something different. While posting on LinkedIn offers personability, publishing blogs on your website gives them permanence, and including them in an e-mail newsletter makes them instantly shareable. “If you’re going to do the work and write an article … use it in every human way possible.”
5. Enlist extra help when needed
For every new to-do list item you’ve ticked off during the lockdown, there are likely several others you’ve ignored.
Social media, for example, is not everyone’s cup of tea, Mr. Hartman says. But if you have a bit of extra budget and time to sit through a few videoconferencing interviews, you can find someone who’ll handle your marketing better than you ever could.
“My advice to most people is: know enough about it to know what you want, but then hire somebody else to do it,” he says.
With unemployment surging, there’s ample talent on the market to provide that help. Hiring an eager, knowledgeable recent graduate is one way to do your part in a struggling economy.