Will 2021 be better for advisers?

2020 has been a year like no other. It has created unexpected and unique challenges for financial advisers in terms of the daily running of your business, interacting with clients and growing your business. There was no clue coming into 2020 that it was going to be a year less ordinary…

In looking at the prospects for 2021, I had a number of conversations with advisers about their outlook and prospects for the year ahead. These were hearteningly positive conversations, most advisers that I spoke to are very optimistic about 2021. This optimism is based on a number of factors.


There’s bound to be less upheaval…

Of course there is no guarantee of this, but if we have an event as significant for the whole world as covid-19, we can probably all throw our hats at it! We are in the midst of a once in a generation event… and advisers are still standing. In fact many report that their income has not been particularly badly impacted in 2020, a good place to be as we survey the decimation of the economy as a whole.

It’s important to remember though that this is not just down to good fortune, it is also an outcome of your planned and well-executed shift in income model away from upfront commission towards a recurring income basis.

And let’s not forget that finally it looks like there are effective vaccines on the way.


Your investment advice is well placed

Most of you consistently guide your clients away from trying to time markets and avoiding making short-term investment decisions. If ever this advice was put to the test, this was the year. A 34% drop in markets as a result of covid and huge uncertainty around the US elections certainly tested the mettle of investors. Telling your clients to stick to the plan and avoid short-term noise paid off in spades. Markets were up 60% from their low point in March to mid-November and staying invested through the US elections resulted in a 9% gain over the following two weeks. Those investors who baled into cash at the low points will rue those expensive decisions.

As we enter 2021 and we see the uncertainty arising over Brexit, what will your advice be now? I know what I plan on doing with my investments… I won’t touch them or even look at them again for a few months.


Clients will need your help more than ever

There are a lot of people very badly impacted by covid. They have had a very difficult year and their businesses have been severely impacted, for many their doors have been shut. Some will never reopen or fully recover. For these people, their financial plans are very compromised, and a lot of careful thought and expert guidance is needed in relation to investment and retirement plans. Your calming wisdom and experience is needed now more than ever.

Your clients need help in revising their plans, looking at different scenarios and resetting some of their expectations for the future. They need your honest appraisal of their situation and your best advice – no matter how hard this may be for them to hear. And then you can help them plot the best route forward and build back their confidence in their financial future.


Your processes have likely improved

One of the big advantages of the sudden shift to remote working earlier this year was the need to very quickly develop new and smoother business practices. One year ago, how many of you were able to effectively carry out meetings online, use digital signatures and share files and workflows with colleagues via the cloud? Also so many of you are now so much further along in terms of using social media, communicating more regularly with existing clients and actually delivering an enhanced client proposition. Your business is operationally stronger going into 2021 than you were entering this current year.


You’ve an alternative way of working

This time last year, very few were thinking about ever working remotely. Now we’re all experts in it! Some of you love the flexibility it offers, and the commuting time saved. For many it has resulted in a much better work/life balance. Many of you will retain it on a part-time basis in the future, even when a full return to the office is possible.

While it definitely suits some people better than others, at least now everyone knows it is possible and knows what is needed to work effectively at home.  At the very least, it’s an additional work option for you going forwards.


2020 is almost done, it was a year like no other, but ultimately was not too damaging for many financial advisers. All of the signs point to a calmer 2021 that offers great potential for you.

Prepare the ground to attract new clients in 2021

I quite regularly get phone calls from financial advisers who are hitting a wall when it comes to attracting new clients. Some are looking for a quick fix, the single activity that they can then get to work on, in the hope of getting new clients on board. This has become a significant issue for those financial advisers who rely on being “out and about” and highly visible in their communities as their main route to new clients. They are really struggling in this socially distanced world where both they and their potential clients are now working from home.

Unfortunately there isn’t a silver bullet to address this challenge. Instead the road to success is through a structured plan of activities delivered brilliantly. In this piece, we are focusing on some important themes you might consider when building up that plan.


Put your target markets at the centre of your plan

A generic plan that can be applied across all segments of your potential client population is simply not going to cut it. Your plan must zero in on the specific target markets that you are seeking to attract.

First of all, you need to know and be able to clearly articulate who is in your target market… and who is not.

Once you understand who your target markets are, you need to understand their personas and the characteristics that make them unique. How do they think, how do they buy services, what do they read and what do they engage with? Once you start to build that picture, you can then craft your Client Value Proposition (CVP) to align better with their particular traits. You can ensure that the services you deliver will meet their needs.

You can then identify the right set of marketing activities to actually attract and engage these specific audiences.


Actively use your CRM

Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system should be the first port of call when you start working each day. This is where opportunities should be captured, marketing activities to individual prospects should be scheduled, the potential of individual leads should be scored and all touchpoints should be tracked – among many other data points.

For too many advisers, the CRM system is being used simply to store contact details for clients and to contain information on policies as downloaded from product providers. This is a missed opportunity…

Talk to your CRM vendor or peers who use the same system, get them to walk you through the sales and marketing capabilities available to you and dedicate time (your own or one of your support staff) to driving real value from your CRM.


Use your network

In these socially distanced times, your network of contacts is such an important asset. Of course the opportunity to mingle with them is not available to you, but there are still ways to leverage your network and most importantly, to remain on their radar. Now is not the time to go quiet – if you want to retain them as important sources of referral business, you need to work harder than ever on communicating effectively with them, and constantly remind them of your expertise.


Commit to consistent marketing

And this really is the key to preparing the ground to building new client relationships in 2021. Now is the time to consider all of the tools available to you to build those new relationships. Review your proposition, look at every aspect of your online presence and the tools you are using to carry out meetings remotely – can you improve how these might be perceived?

And then look to communicate relentlessly to stay relevant and visible. Look for opportunities through email marketing, using social media (in particular LinkedIn) and through online webinars and events.


With a few weeks to run before the start of 2021, now is the time to get yourself set up for a successful year on the new client acquisition front.