With the coronavirus pandemic triggering widespread quarantines and social distancing, many advisory firms are implementing measures to set up their operations as a Work-From-Home (WFH) environment. While this allows everyone in the business to do their part preventing the spread of disease, it also poses challenges for these firms of simply staying operational and providing seamless customer service.
In this guest post from Matt Sonnen, CEO of PFI Advisors (a consulting firm that helps financial advisors build more impactful and profitable enterprises), Matt explains that in times of crisis such as the one we are currently facing, firms that switch to a WFH model have important decisions to make as they transition their employees and infrastructure to a new and unfamiliar way of doing business. For financial advisors, in particular, compliance plays a big role when implementing new technology solutions; specifically, firms need to ensure that client data remains safe and uncompromised (whether that be accomplished through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or secure internet connections), and that all employees understand and follow safe cybersecurity guidelines.
From a Human Resources perspective, firms may need to provide employees who work from home with more flexible hours, as it can be challenging for some to balance personal and work responsibilities in a home setting (e.g., children or other dependents also staying home who may distract parents from working during normal business hours). Yet, at the same time, it is also very important for advisors to practice good leadership skills by communicating clear and specific expectations for all team members, making sure that everyone knows (or can quickly learn) how to function smoothly as a WFH team.
For financial advisors, business infrastructure considerations include not only the standard business tools such as computers, phone systems, and communication protocols, but also some RIA-specific requirements, such as custodial interactions; processes around performance reporting, trading, and rebalancing; and CRM and financial planning tools.
Ultimately, the key point is that, even though there are many considerations to make when transitioning to a WFH model, the flexibility granted to employees and technology tools available can make it a very practical move allowing for firms to continue operations and to provide excellent client service with minimal downtime. In these times when social distancing is crucial to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, the WFH model not only provides employees with the autonomy to continue working as a team while helping them to stay healthy, it also provides the firm with a good opportunity to ‘test’ the soundness of their business continuity plan and to identify ways to improve upon business operations once things begin to recover and go back to normal.