As we move into a new year, people will be experiencing mixed feelings. In the investment markets, global volatility and Brexit makes the outlook unclear.
Emotions are running high. Interest rates, currencies, house values – the impact on these things and many others is unknown. In times of economic uncertainty, one of the first people clients will turn to for help is their adviser.
Most advisers will have an established process for servicing clients, which is likely planned out well in advance to help manage their workflow. However, these fluctuating markets are likely to increase incoming calls. A client review scheduled for week 14, for example, goes out of the window as the adviser responds. And what even is the message to clients?
The challenges are clear, so here are six suggestions to help firms control the uncontrollable in 2019.
1. Leadership agility
Many firms are seeking to reposition themselves and protect profitability in the face of shifting client demands, rising regulation and the need to embrace technology.
It is important to be vigilant, inquisitive and agile, particularly in volatile periods such as this. Clients expect conversations to be relevant and current and, at the moment, events are changing on a daily and hourly basis. Keeping in constant touch with market developments will help to understand what is happening.
2. Business planning
With information pouring in from all directions, it’s easy to become confused, so counter volatility with a clear vision. Clients will need reminding about the inevitability of market highs and lows. However, most investment decisions have been taken based on a long-term view of each individual’s risk outlook, goals and objectives. That said, advisers do need to factor in the potential for additional support for clients, as some seek safety and others see a buying opportunity.
As events unfold, the key question is what it means for the client. It’s important to be able to contextualise information in a compelling way, and business owners with multiple advisers will want to ensure there’s a consistent story across the firm. Be clear on your message and what you stand for. Ambiguity is not what clients want at a time like this.
3. Business modelling
We need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Most firms will have a clear strategy and vision for growing their business. Market turbulence shouldn’t detract from this. It’s important to understand where the business value is generated over the long term. Maximise that value by doing what matters most, but in the short term also understand the capacity issues a time of uncertainty brings, and look to understand how that can be managed.
Of course, you don’t need to have all the answers yourself and outsourcing can provide a solution. By partnering with the right people, you can leverage their expertise and insight, helping you to continue to shape and grow your business.
Factor everything into your financial model and understand more about your cost to serve. Use 2019 as an opportunity to reflect and reappraise. You might lose a month reacting to changing events, so is this factored into your business model?
4. Your people
Recruiting and retaining quality people is a hot topic, so don’t lose sight of this. Remain focused on staff development and succession plans. Lead with conviction on the firm’s business goals, highlighting the strengths and abilities within the team. Look to elicit ideas and get people’s input on future plans. Now is the time to connect and communicate more than ever.
5. Client insight
View this period as an opportunity to learn more about your clients and build deeper relationships. Explore the options available to gather insight and co-create with them. Review your database and understand how you can improve data capture and in doing so better profile your propositions and service. Through this experience other areas of advice for the firm to expand into might also be identified.
The complexities of doing business are mounting. Firms need to continually review their processes to make sure their systems can cope, otherwise they risk stifling their ability to innovate. This can be avoided by being inquisitive and investing time to understand how technology can help. It includes understanding what clients value and how technology can enhance this. However, building it in-house is very expensive, so consider partnering with the right people who will enable you to access the best solutions available in the market. And constantly appraise, because technology is evolving and improving all the time.
At a time of uncertainty, the role of an adviser is paramount, so use it as an opportunity to learn, embed and build deeper client relationships. Just like any period of adversity, if you learn from the experience then you will emerge stronger for it.
Ross Liston is managing director of Bankhall and PMS