John Campbell, CEO, Chartered Wealth Solutions
We set out in January 2020 with our clearly defined set of goals for the new year, following our strategic getaway in November 2019.
Reflecting on this strategic planning initiative, we discussed many risks that we could foresee in the current financial planning environment. We ensured we had a plan should any of these risks materialise. However, none of us envisaged anything quite like what we have experienced this year.
Following the first confirmed South African Covid infection in my home town of Hilton, the hype we had heard from the UK, Italy and China very quickly became a reality. We closed the offices a week before the official lockdown and very quickly set up our staff’s home offices. None of us had any idea of how to work from home, but after a few online sessions with our tech team, we were good to go. We changed all our internal meetings to zoom calls and decided that it was business as usual. Our client relations team sent out instructions to all of our clients on how to set up both Teams and Zoom, and 220 days later, we have not missed a client review or internal meeting.
It was incredible to witness the agility and resilience of our team as they adapted to this new world of work. We conducted many surveys with our team during the lockdown, and it was fascinating reading the responses. More than 90% of our staff said they were more productive at home. After a few weeks of lockdown, our staff acknowledged how they were missing the human connection. In response, we set up Friday drinks and several online team builders, and it was encouraging to see the level of involvement from all the staff.
Staying connected with our clients was vital to us, so our client relations team, under Kim Potgieter’s guidance, set up client functions every week for the duration of lockdown. Events varied from financial talks to the history of music, to quiz evenings, to talks from people working on the frontline. When restrictions eased, we delivered snacks to the clients to enjoy during the talks.
What have we learned from this new world of work?
For a number of years, we have discussed systematising the business. This pandemic has accelerated this need, and we have now implemented various technology in the business. We can now take a client through the full financial planning experience and implement all our advice without having to print a piece of paper.
One of our hotly debated topics in our strategic getaway was flexibility at work. We mulled over this and could not quite find the solutions, but thanks to this crisis, this has become much clearer, and with the opportunities that virtual technology brings to us we can work from anywhere.
There is no doubt that a face- to- face meeting is better than an online one, but we now have the choice to be selective, and some meetings can be online and others in person. We have decided that all clients will be given the option.
One of the biggest challenges of working virtually was the impact it has had on the culture of the business. Over the past ten years, we have worked hard on our company values, and they are included as measurables in our navigation conversations (performance reviews). Over the past few weeks, we have met with every member of staff in the business, in person, and discussed what boundaries need to be put in place for the future in order to maintain our culture.
Financial Planners work their hardest through highly volatile equity markets, as we have to do everything possible to ensure clients don’t waiver from their strategy set out in their Financial Plan. We stepped up communications with clients, both written and in our bi-weekly online zoom sessions, to ensure they had all the necessary support through this challenging time.
As the saying goes, never allow a crisis to go to waste. We have certainly found every opportunity to make the most of a tough year and adapted well under the circumstances.
We are ready for 2021 and looking forward to applying the learnings from last year into the future.