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The global health crisis has forced business people in a variety of industries to find new business methods. However, this goes beyond the development of new protocols or partnerships. It's also about how people get in touch with their customers. And nowhere is this more evident than in the financial investment industry, which could change this pandemic and its consequences forever for the better.
Give answers that go far beyond spending
Almost 30 years ago, when I first started business as a bond trader, I saw how many people plunged into the industry to become a bond trader, seller, or financial advisor. Most of the time they were attracted to stocks. They wanted to look at and assess balance sheets.
In other words, the industry was all about data. Sure, consultants took care of it. We always have. However, the expectation was that you would interact more with the numbers – interacting with the customer wasn't what would set the day.
Then, in 2008, the recession hit and everything changed. Suddenly, the professionals who were used to evaluating information suddenly had to hold hands. They had to rate individuals to get to know them beyond what was only on paper. That was a massive shift.
Today, COVID-19 is forcing financial advisors to switch again in a similar way. With unemployment and layoffs still at unprecedented levels and markets playing in the yo-yo while the US is slowly moving towards recovery, people are naturally worried about their wealth. The question is often not even how to make money, but how to stay afloat and manage investments so they don't go away. Risk reduction is the key point.
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However, financial customers don't just consider their investments. They try to control how they teach their children the rest of the school year, how they turn their home into an office, how long it will take them to recover, and all sorts of other things. They worry about staying healthy, dealing with isolation and, in the worst case, dealing with the deaths of people they love. It is difficult. It is complex. And often there are no uniform answers.
In short, financial customers aren't just looking for great stock tips or ways to secure an account. You need a lot more support. And as financial advisors, we have to get to know them and give advice, not just how to spend money, but how to live – right now and in the future.
We can use technology and at the same time show the next generation what really matters
Technology has the potential to help financial advisors better serve their clients in this regard. This doesn't just mean switching to other software or types of spreadsheets. This means, for example, that you will learn to use tools such as zoom, virtual meetings and digital happy hours to reach a deeper level.
The way financial advisors and their clients will use technology in the future has great potential to influence the next generation who will inherit today's wealth. For example, many young people have internalized the idea that technology can not only give answers, but is the answer to almost everything. They could take a look at what their parents were doing through this pandemic and find that they could weather this difficult time because financial advisors brought a human touch to the equation. This next generation will see that a portfolio is more than just a sum of dollars and cents – it actually includes feelings, desires, passions and goals. A good portfolio can help fund all of these things, but it cannot replace the life you can lead if you have someone you trust who is responsible for those assets.
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The shift to a deeper connection benefits everyone
As a financial advisor, you always have to stick your nose in the books to a certain extent. That is the type of job. But today, maybe even more than in 2008, we have a wonderful opportunity to build relationships with customers that are much more personal and, as a result, more meaningful and financially successful.
In addition, the business world has become increasingly familiar with the ideas of authenticity and transparency. Potential customers are looking for employees who can clarify their meaning and be honest about who they are and what needs to happen. You can still delve deeply into your customers' balance sheets while making your larger values known.
The pandemic will end, but the need to be seen, heard and valued will not end
Eventually the COVID 19 pandemic will subside. And when we start working through recovery, we have to realize that we have a choice. We can either go back and go back to the old, data-centric way of working, or we can accept the new, holistic standard of financial advice that COVID-19 has brought to the fore.
To make this decision, we just have to ask ourselves whether people value deep connection only in times of crisis. The answer is no – people always want to be seen, heard and valued. Crises only reinforce this desire.
While COVID-19 may be the catalyst, moving to a more personal approach to financial advice is a beneficial change. It will continue to bring benefits, not only in the here and now, but also through relaxation and far into the future. The more you use the technology at your disposal and make full use of it to connect, the more securely you can help your customers feel both inside and outside their accounts. And if you accept this shift now, it will be much more natural to reinforce the next time a crisis arises.
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