Paul Shanahan, founder of Futura, reflects on how the financial industry has adapted to support clients during the challenges of the last 18 months.
There’s no doubt that Covid has had an impact on every business, and every industry, throughout the whole world. The way that many businesses and industries have been able to react and adapt to it have been remarkable, and we see and hear amazing stories of resilience, ingenuity and cooperation every day when we talk to our clients.
Equally, at Futura, we’ve had to adapt what we do and how we do it. One day, back in March 2020, we were all working in the traditional way in an office that we shared with each other – seeing our clients in person, shaking hands and making coffees for our colleagues. The next, we were all working from home, having no physical contact with anyone and having to get to grips with new technology so that we could move the entire team and business into a virtual world.
Like most people, we didn’t find this an easy transition at first. Turning our homes into our full-time offices meant that two historically separate worlds suddenly collided, making it increasingly more difficult to switch off from one world to concentrate on the other.
Delivering financial advice through video calling and over the phone was tricky, too. So much of our communication is non-verbal, and not being able to talk to our clients in person – to gauge their body language, and to have a more ‘natural’ interaction with them – makes it harder to explore the things that are important to them; their values, their goals, and to talk about emotive subjects such as ill health, death, and so on. Particularly when the internet plays up, and the video freezes halfway through a deep and meaningful conversation.
Many of our clients have had to learn new skills too, particularly in relation to dealing with video calling, buying things online, digital banking, two-factor authentication for internet security and the use of mobile apps. This has been hard for some of the older generation, many of whom would be the first to admit that they had very little experience with computers, other than for basic functions such as accessing the internet and sending emails. It’s been wonderful to see how well they, as well as our own team, have adapted to this new way of working.
The most wonderful thing that we’ve discovered, now that we’re much further down the road and have the benefit of hindsight and enough time to get used to this brave new world, is that out of all the difficulty, isolation, fear, anxiety, stress and hardship that most of us have felt at some point since the pandemic started, there have been some wonderful things that have come out of it, too.
Firstly, it’s united people in many ways. Whether it’s been through volunteering to help the most vulnerable around us, discovering and sharing new walks around your local countryside with friends, or getting elderly parents or grandparents set up with a Skype account so they could still see and speak to people during the periods in lockdown. Those are wonderful and positive things to come out of this.
We are also extremely proud of our industry in how quickly it’s adapted to the need for home-working and remote access. Tens of thousands of people formerly worked in large office blocks for giant insurance companies, investment houses, etc. and the logistics involved in getting each person equipped with the necessary technology, security and support to work from home is quite remarkable.
In addition, the way companies have changed their back-office systems and introduced new and simplified processing of documentation (such as accepting digital signatures and scanned application forms) has been a real leap forward in the technology that surrounds us. It’s not been seamless, and there are still some companies out there that are struggling with backlogs and IT problems, but by and large, it’s been a success.
Also, the rate of claims paid out on insurance policies has helped a very large number of people during the pandemic. For some, unfortunately, they’ll have been life insurance claims made by their loved ones. For others, it’ll be sickness claims to help them deal with things like being unable to work as a result of long Covid, and potentially other health complications associated with having had it, or potentially needing to be hospitalised for it. Our industry has provided immense support to those people during those difficult times.
And even the online meetings have had some positives. It’s meant that we’ve been able to ‘see’ potentially more of our clients, particularly during the periods in full lockdown, as there haven’t been as many logistical issues with them getting to the office or working diaries around holidays, and it’s been a nice way to keep in touch with the ones that are more isolated. On the corporate side of our business, it’s been even more far-reaching as we can now have online meetings with large numbers of people at one time, which would have been much harder to organise in the past. For example, meeting with all of the employees of a company to talk to them about their pension scheme, or discussing business protection and employee benefits packages with the whole management team within a business. There’s a lot less time, cost and potential detriment to the planet in simply switching on your computer to have a meeting, rather than everyone trekking to an office somewhere.
It’s these little things that make so much difference, and bring us joy and optimism about the future of financial planning. While we would always still choose to have face to face meetings, be able to shake hands with our clients, and work with our colleagues in person every day, there are still some real positives that have come out of the last year and a half, and it’s always good to take some time to appreciate and share them.
For more information on how Futura can support your business, please contact us on 01224 582 185 or submit an enquiry by clicking here.
This article is for information only and does not include or constitute any advice or recommendations.