Warren Ingram CFP®, co-founder of Galileo Capital.
I think many of us will need time to digest what happened with the pandemic, how we coped, how our businesses reacted and how our clients were impacted.
While I am not rushing to any conclusions, I have noted some early changes that are interesting.
Lessons from afar
Our business has clients in a range of countries and some of them went into lockdown earlier than we did in South Africa. As it became clear that SA was going into lockdown, we contacted these clients find out if we could learn anything from them. It was striking that all of them mentioned mental strain as the major factor to manage. The people who were coping best, were those who had compulsory regular contact with colleagues. This was our biggest lesson from abroad and we started daily Microsoft Teams meetings for all our planning teams. These are the smallest operating teams in our business, and we asked them to meet daily with cameras on. This ensured that colleagues could keep an eye on each other and alert us if they noticed early signs of depression in their colleagues.
In addition, we instituted a weekly “silly hat” meeting for the whole company. This usually happened on a Friday mid-morning and was compulsory for everyone, with cameras on. The purpose was purely social, and no work was discussed. In addition, we challenged everyone to wear a silly hat or headgear to keep the conversation light-hearted. This proved to be a powerful antidote to loneliness and isolation as lockdown carried on.
We retained the daily Teams meetings as lockdown eased. Our staff told us they felt more connected and integrated than before lockdown because of these meetings. As we moved to Stage 1 of lockdown, we scrapped the weekly meetings and asked our staff to return to the office on a Friday. They can decide for themselves where they want to work for the remainder of the week. Many are back at the office full time as they found it too lonely to work from home and some parents needed a break from their family routine!
Work from anywhere
Selfishly, lockdown helped my wife realise that she can operate her business from anywhere and this has opened a range of new work/life options for us. “Work from anywhere” will be a part of the Ingram family future!
As a business, we realised that our trust in our people, where we give them accountability for their work output without micromanaging their time was an unexpected blessing in lockdown. We have very strong workflow systems and all our operations have been in the Cloud for years. This meant there was no impact on our business by being away from the office.
We have many older clients and were pleasantly surprised at how they adapted to virtual meetings. Many of them expressed satisfaction with the virtual meeting format.
We will allow our staff to manage their time even more freely than before. Once the COVID crisis passes, we will ask our staff to be in the office on Mondays and Fridays as the social interaction is critical to our culture.
Our early investment in technology proved a real benefit, it has reinforced our commitment to automate our processes even more and to empower our clients with access to more planning tools than ever before. We are convinced that we need clients to take greater ownership of their financial planning, with us as their co-pilots. Our monthly videos to clients are valued but we need to do more. We are investigating curated news and more personalised articles to counter the low standard of journalism and the fake news plague on social media.
We consider ourselves very fortunate to have survived unscathed and are grateful that we can serve our clients in these tough times. We are reminded that our profession provides a vital service to many, if only we could do more for greater numbers of people.