Barry O’Mahony CFP®, Veritas Wealth Management. Financial Planner of the Year 2013.
In December 2019, we asked all our financial planners to consider a new mind-set where everyone has a standing desk and laptop and can choose where they want to work from, the office, home or even coffee shops.
Wherever they felt ‘in the zone’ and could concentrate. We had not contemplated our back office doing the same, as we thought they needed administrative equipment such as printer and scanners.
Lockdown then became an even bigger eye opener for us in terms of what is truly possible and how people – even administrators – can work from home. We were contemplating buying our administrative staff laptops pre lockdown, with load shedding in mind and so during lockdown, when this became a necessity and observing how administrative staff could still work from home, bought these immediately.
Culture and communication
Company culture is important in our business. We’ve always had a great balance between work and play. We are an established team and our workflows are well defined, this helped greatly as the work ethic is built into our day to day dealings with clients. People know when they are falling behind and when they need to up their game. We were concerned with the affect lockdown would have on individuals and as management we realised how you need to treat everyone as an individual. We realised we have mothers with young children trying to educate, entertain, live and then work. We have colleagues living on their own, others with comorbidities and through it all we all had good days and bad days. We normally meet for 40 minutes as a team once a week, but we changed this to three Zoom meetings a week initially in lockdown. We used these meetings to check in with each other and encouraged people to speak openly about how they were coping.
We increased our level of communication to clients especially as markets went into the V. We hosted our first webinar, invited clients to talks that we felt would add value and started our own podcast series, which we aim to grow. We moved our monthly newsletter to bi-monthly and then pulled that back again in August, as we could see that our clients were becoming over-loaded with virtual communication across the board.
Our key concern has always been the physical and mental health of our team, especially those living alone. We worked a life coach to ensure our planners were coping personally and professionally. We spoke a lot about how tiring it was with having so much screen time, but also how levels of concentration are more intense working on your own. We all acknowledged that we missed sitting together, but saw the benefits of working remotely.
Optimal work going forward
We won’t be reducing our office space and as a company on a growth path we would want to bring in new staff into the business and into our culture, which to some extent will require office time in order to monitor and evaluate new team members. It’s very important to us to work with the right people with the right work ethic.
We recently asked each team member to share with us how they would like to work through Covid-19 and what they had learnt from the experience so far and what how they would like to work going forward. Most have said that they would like to mix it up between coming to the office and working from home. Everyone misses the interaction of their colleagues. For those with young families they want to be at home during critical times and work flexible hours. Those who sit in traffic will no longer do that. Working from home for planners is powerful to get through work that needs deeper conversation. You have to trust people for this flexibility to work.
Doing review meetings on zoom does work, but it’s not the ideal interface for new clients. We cannot put our finger on it, but it certainly was not as powerful a connection. Client packs are now emailed and never printed for financial planners and clients can review the document before meetings.
We will spend more time refining how flexibility can work how to balance a great company culture with and a strong, effective work ethic.
During this time, we’ve learnt a huge amount about the importance of our individual staff needs, that flexibility is an asset and that the use of an office is not a black or white decision. Covid-19 has brought a wave of change that will re-form advice businesses for ever.
All the expertise, products and service to help you to keep your clients focused on the destination.
Momentum Investments is part of Momentum Metropolitan Life Limited, an authorised financial services (FSP6406) and registered credit (NCRCP173) provider.