Coronavirus -Covid19 – How are you?

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I am sorry to add to the column inches devoted to Covid 19, but I keep being asked, mainly by my wife, how it is affecting my business.

We now move into an era where Socially Responsible Investment should be replaced by Socially Responsible Activity. People will be judged on how they have behaved in this harrowing period. All those people who have been hoarding goods to stock up for themselves should be ashamed. If they shopped normally, there would be more than enough for everybody. I am aware of a man who said that he has a sore throat and a dry cough, but since he does not yet have a temperature he is going to carry on working! Fortunately, we can balance these things out with the wonderful work of the NHS staff and other acts of kindness and generosity that are being done all over the country.

The recent move towards social (physical) distancing means that many people are now experimenting with working from home. For some, like myself, that is business as usual. It involves trust from the employers that their workers will maintain good working habits and practices, but this comes straight into the Code of Conduct Principles introduced with SM & CR. “How you work when the boss is not looking“ will now be brought out into the open. It does require discipline to work from home to be as productive as one would be in an office. My discipline is not brought about by any righteousness on my part. It is brought about by the need to pay my mortgage, run my car and pay for my lifestyle.

The recent move towards social (physical) distancing means that many people are now experimenting with working from home.

The fact that we are now encouraged to avoid “non-essential contact and travelling” may have an immediate effect on those advisers who have all their meetings with clients at their own office or go to clients’ house for face-to-face meetings. It has been seen as positive boon for financial services that it is still a face-to-face personal business over the years. This will now receive a severe test.

I guess that the same will apply to the few broker consultants that still go out to visit firms to drum up business for providers. The fact that many of the traditional meeting places are now shutting will curtail this activity.

Perhaps this will be the catalyst to tip financial services into operating by electronic means. Obviously, telephone and email contact has been used for years, but there may be on increase in the use of facetime, Skype or other visual forms of communicating with clients.

Some years ago, I ran a whole series of training meetings with advisers as part of a training & competence program. They would call me by telephone to make the first appointment. We would have an initial meeting on Skype to run through how they cover the IDD formalities and talk about the fact find and how they used that and to introduce a real client case. This ended our first meeting by booking a second presentation meeting. I wrote up feedback points from that meeting and sent them to the supervisor within the firm

In order to minimise waste, we used real client information. So, between meetings, I was able to check the fact find, prepare questions about things that may have been unclear. I could also look at the advice that was being given.

At the second Skype call, we would go through the points raised on the fact find and the adviser would then present their advice. They would go through the illustrations and then jump to the post-signing formalities about the next steps.

Often this conversation led to the adviser actually discussing the case with me and getting guidance if they needed any particular paperwork or what they should be including in the suitability letter.

I would then write my notes regarding that meeting. Then feedback was provided to the adviser about how they could do things better or be clearer, as appropriate. This would be shared with the supervisor and put onto their CPD records.

The firm had 11 advisers and I was able to do the whole process without me leaving my home near Brighton or them spending any time travelling from North Devon.

Many firms work remotely from their clients. Appointments by telephone. Paperwork provided as email attachments. Possibly using digital document signatures. Business written on provider portals. Paperwork from providers downloaded from portals. Clients encouraged to log in to the portals for progress updates.

So perhaps the Covid 19 virus may be the push for old-fashioned personal face-to-face client meetings to be overtaken by more contact being made by digital means. I am sure that there will still be a call for those meetings, but this whole event may lead to many firms seeing how inefficient some of their practices are.

Providers have been moving towards webinars rather than running expensive seminars. Again, many advisers already see the benefits of a webinar that they can watch from their own office/home rather than the travelling time to and from a venue to participate. For years, I have felt that the main benefit of seminars was to meet other advisers and swap anecdotes rather than seeing what the providers are trying to sell us. That and the pens and mugs that are available.

Depending how long this issue causes us to avoid non-essential contact, it may cause a major review of how we interact in the future.

If there is enforced isolation, conclusions may well be an increased number of divorce cases or an increase in babies being born. I guess that will depend on whether your glass is half-empty or half-full.

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TC Compliance Services Tony Catt is a freelance compliance consultant working with several firms of different sizes. "I have previously been an adviser, which gives me a good understanding of the advice process and dealing with customers and I enjoy a close relationship with my adviser clients"

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