Weathering the storm of Covid-19

Financial planning coach Louis van der Merwe speaks about the surprisingly positive impact of the lockdown for those planners that embrace change and technology.

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The impact of Covid-19 has been felt by every client and financial planner. Fortunately, for the planners that embrace change and technology, this impact has turned out to be surprisingly positive. The concept of Antifragile comes to mind, which was first coined by Nassim Taleb in 2012 as “something that benefits from shock”.

I believe that this shock has helped many businesses to become more resilient through embracing technology and a new way of delivering advice.

No longer are our clients limited to working with a financial planner that is situated in the same town or physically close to them.

No longer do we need to build a team that sits in the same building to work together. A distributed and diverse team that communicates virtually can move to a better client experience at reduced costs for the employer. You can now sit anywhere in the world and service a client on the other side of the globe.

We’ve seen this play out in developed markets over the last decade, but now our clients have the tools necessary to accept the delivery of digital advice. Just like software developers lead with a mobile-first approach, so too can we lead with a digital-first delivery of advice. Keeping the face-to-face interactions to building the relationship and screen-to-screen interactions to delivering and implementing advice.

Availability has become key to ensure that we are holding the hands of our clients during difficult times.

As our clients have more autonomy over their time through working from home, this also creates a space to engage with their financial planners. Availability has become key to ensure that we are holding the hands of our clients during difficult times – be it difficult times weathering the markets or difficult times in their personal lives.

No longer are our thoughts shaped by local thought leaders only, a global community of financial planners has emerged.

During a time when it is just as easy to connect to someone in another country as it is to connect with your neighbour, we’ve seen the rise of a global community of financial planners who are willing to share and uplift those around them. Platforms like XY Adviser and LinkedIn have proven to be extremely valuable to learn and share a better way of delivering advice but avoiding common pitfalls and becoming aware of our blind spots.

You can now sit anywhere in the world and service a client on the other side of the globe.

We have to deal with both the human side as well as the technical side of financial planning and we can learn a lot from other markets. We can also be equally proud of the South African financial planning landscape which is on par with the leading developed markets.

No longer are our clients expected to face their fears on their own.

During the lockdown, we had an interaction with a new client who recently lost a loved one and was due to inherit a lump sum of money. The client opted not to switch on the video during our virtual calls and this allowed her to interact with a financial planner in a safe and low-stress environment. Planning a visit to a planner can be stressful for many clients as they might not know what to expect and are sometimes pressed to share information that might be very personal. Imagine sharing your income, expenses and life goals with a stranger.

Louis van der Merwe, Certified Financial Planner® and Coach
Louis van der Merwe, Certified Financial Planner® and Coach

The value of financial planning has increased overnight as clients become aware of the
shortcomings in their planning.

In a recent survey, 28% of people trust themselves as the main source of financial planning, while only 24% worked with a financial planner. It is near impossible to become aware of our blind spots and biases and working with a planner helps to highlight the things you might be missing.

Mental health has become a mainstream discussion point as people feel that it’s more acceptable to discuss the impact of financial stress. Our role as advisors is primed to help our clients towards holistic wellness that is underpinned by their finances, alongside their eating, sleeping and movement habits.

We are extremely lucky to be in an industry that is constantly increasing the value we deliver to our clients. The discussion has evolved to include a combination of product information, financial planning and coaching. One thing is for sure, the new way of delivering advice and connecting on a human basis is here to stay.