Is working from home viable for Financial Advisers?

As most financial advisers have been working from home for a couple of weeks now, everyone is starting to get a sense of how viable it is as an alternative way of working.


While everyone’s experiences are different, from my conversations with advisers I’m finding three cohorts emerging,

  • The “never again” crew: There are some advisers finding remote working very challenging! Often this is down to factors such as the lack of availability of space in the home or young children being a distraction. Other advisers are simply not enjoying the isolation and miss the banter and sociability of the office. Others are struggling to work effectively with staff at a distance.
  • The “new alternative” gang: These people have experienced working from home for a sustained period quite refreshing, but with challenges. They will quickly revert back to the regular office routine, but have recognised that remote working offers benefits too, and they are much more open to the idea of using it in the future, both for themselves and for their staff. This is probably the largest group of the three.
  • The “never looking back” bunch: These are people who have loved the flexibility of working at home and while they will maintain an office going forwards, remote working will continue to be embraced and really used, maybe more so by themselves than by their staff.


So what are some of the key determinants of whether working from home seems to work for financial advisers or not?

  • Your work space: Trying to work at the kitchen table simply doesn’t hack it. While it might be fine for an hour here or there, it doesn’t work over a sustained period. After all, there’s a certain amount of “stuff” you need around you, aside from your laptop. If you are to replicate the office environment as much as possible, you need easy access to a printer and client files etc. Of course you also need access to excellent broadband. Nothing replaces a dedicated office in the house or better still, out in the garden.
  • The age of children: Young kids seeking attention from mum or dad is an inevitable distraction! I’m definitely finding that advisers with young families are finding it a little more challenging. However when the Covid-19 crisis recedes a bit and kids are back in school or a creche, working from home may be a good alternative for some of these advisers again.
  • Your technical capability: Some advisers are completely stuck when the printer stops working and are quite daunted by the technical side of running a Zoom meeting themselves. Without the “go-to” techie person in the office available to them, they really struggle. This causes frustration and longing to be back in the office.
  • Your personality: Some advisers have lapped up the flexibility, avoiding commuting and seeming to have more time available to them. Some say they struggle to stop working and find themselves still at the desk at 8pm. Others have really missed the sociability of the office, having your staff in your eyeline and working closely together as a team. This latter group have struggled to work effectively themselves and aren’t confident that their staff are as effective as usual. There’s certainly no “one size fits all” here…


So working from home is definitely not for everyone and for some advisers, their own situation simply doesn’t lend itself to remote working. But what are some of the big (and sometimes surprising) benefits that have emerged?

  • Clients are learning too: As you are working from home, so are many of your clients. They are going through the exact same trials and tribulations. However many of them have embraced it too. They recognise that it’s why/how/what you do that matters, and not where you do it. While face to face meetings will likely always have a central role in your client relationships, the last few weeks have shown that clients are open to alternatives too. And these alternatives offer you opportunities to optimise your time and other scarce resources.
  • Remote meetings can work: Following the above point, I’ve heard many success stories in the  last few weeks. New clients have been signed up remotely by advisers who admit that they felt this would be 100% impossible! Advisers have held thousands of remote meetings, putting clients’ minds at ease during the market turbulence. One adviser I’m working with is marvelling at the number of clients he is now “seeing” every day, significantly increasing his productivity. A number of firms are currently reworking their Client Value Propositions, making remote meetings an actual feature of it for some clients.
  • Staff can work remotely too: It’s not enough to send staff off home with a laptop. What’s their working environment like at home? If this is ok, maybe you can offer them a bit more flexibility in the future. However in doing so, give them some structure and clarity of your expectations around the hours they will work, their delivery goals, their interaction with clients (a quiet, professional backdrop) etc. Tease out your expectations with them and work through challenges they might face. If remote working can work for both your staff and you, this may significantly increase their loyalty and engagement.


So the answer to the question is yes, working from home is a viable alternative. But only given the right circumstances and also recognising that some people simply prefer a busy office as the place of work.


The choice is yours.  But as someone who works in the back garden, I wouldn’t change it for the world! Now I just need to go and cut the grass….

How do you build an intergenerational proposition?

Is this a time to be talking about an inter-generational financial planning proposition? Maybe it is… First of all during these restricted times, it’s a lot more difficult to get out and mix among prospective clients. Secondly now that you probably have a bit more time on your hands, there’s an opportunity to spend some time creating a new offering – reaching out to the children of your clients.

In the United States, it is estimated that children do not retain their parent’s adviser in 90% – 95% of cases after their parent’s death. This results in the adviser’s remuneration from that client going immediately to zero. Is the figure likely to be significantly different in Ireland? The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to build solid relationships with the adult children of your clients.

First of all, it’s worth considering some ways in which you can get on the radar of adult children and then remain there.


Get to know the adult children

First of all, make sure that your client’s children know who you are. Seek permission from your client to introduce yourself to them – not to hound them for business, but instead that their children have a recognised and friendly face in the event of the death or loss of mental capacity of the parent. Should this happen, at least now you are a friendly face who has some chance of working collaboratively with the children into the future.


Look for opportunities to demonstrate your value

Then when you are introduced to your client’s children, take the relationship very slowly. Look to add value by adding them to your ongoing communications networks, after first of all finding out which communication channels they want you to use. Depending on their preferences, look to add them to your email newsletter, connect with them on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter etc. If you are hosting a relevant seminar, you should even consider suggesting to your clients that they bring one of their adult children along to it.


Include them (as appropriate) in their parent’s financial plans

This is obviously an area in which you need to tread carefully, but there may well be areas of a parent’s financial planning in which it makes sense to involve their adult children. While parents may not want to share every small detail of their financial situation with their children, some planning will make lives easier down the road. At a minimum, seek to ensure your clients and their adult children understand the structure and implications of wills, enduring powers of attorney, gifting strategies and estate planning.

At the end of the day, you want the opportunity to demonstrate to the adult children of your clients that you really care about your clients, that their interests are paramount in everything that you do. They will see you a valuable, trusted adviser to their parents. And they will also hopefully see that you can carry out the same role for them too.


It is then worth turning your attention to considering some of the specific ways in which you might treat this younger cohort, in order for them to fully engage with you and to become long-term clients.


Have a proposition that “talks” to them

If your proposition is all about managing assets, this is not going to resonate with these younger clients – because they often don’t have any! However what they do probably have is significant income growth potential and the ability to build an asset pool in the future. Build a proposition and pricing structure that talks to them about their goals and needs, rather than that of more traditional, older clients.


Lifestyle planning is relevant

Yes, younger people usually have less assets. However younger people tend to have heads full of future dreams, goals and ambitions, more so than older people where life has become a little more settled and simple. Younger people have no sense though of how achievable their dreams are, or what they need to do to bring them to reality. That’s where your skills as a lifestyle financial planner come in.


Send them targeted communications

Sending “one size fits all” communications to your younger clients that you use to engage your clients in their 50’s and 60’s just won’t wash – your younger clients won’t be able to relate to it. You will need to alter your communication approach with your younger clients, by developing separate content that connects with them and their specific challenges at their stage in life.  It’s definitely more effort, but worth it in the long run.


Are you the right adviser for them?

The client bases of most financial planners tend to generally reflect the adviser in terms of age and other demographics. Potential clients tend to gravitate to people that they can easily connect with, who appear to be “like them”. This is something you need to carefully consider with younger clients. If you’re 20+ years older than your target younger clients, are they really going to connect with you? Or will they feel more comfortable with a younger adviser who they can easily relate to, and who will be with them over their full financial journey. Is it time to go out and hire a younger adviser, if you are really serious about expanding your client base among younger clients?


How will you charge?

This is a significant headache for advisers… how to make this segment viable, particularly as asset levels are low or non-existent. A trail commission basis probably won’t work for you, and these clients may well baulk at / not see sufficient value in a standard retainer or fee arrangement. So you may need to review your proposition to a “lite” version at a lower cost, with a view to increasing the services and your fees as the years progress. This is a tough one to get right, but can be achieved with careful planning and execution.


Building bridges to the next generation is a significant challenge, both in terms of attracting them and then delivering a proposition that engages them. However if you do this well, it will add significant long term value to your business. Maybe developing an inter-generational proposition is a really good use of your time over the coming months?