No. 1642 | The Voice of Financial Advisers

Advisers eye permanent change as crisis persists

by Amy Austin, Rachel Mortimer and Imogen Tew

Advisers, providers and platforms have committed to furthering their work revolutions even once a return to offices materialises, with business leaders predicting a “new normal” is here to stay. As the UK enters its eighth

week of national lockdown, preparations are being made across the financial services sector for what life might look like on the other side of the coronavirus crisis, after months of working from home.

Advisers are embracing

what many see as a permanent shift away from face-to-face meetings towards virtual client communication, and have also found other benefits to their new ways of working. Nigel Stockton, chief

executive of national IFA Ascot Lloyd, said: “Client communication and engagement, operational processes and our marketing have been irrevocably altered. “We will ask clients how they

want to be communicated with in the future – going forward video calls will now be an essential part of our client contact programmes. “Equally, we are aware that

some will still want the option of a face-to-face interview, and we are looking at how we can implement appropriate social distancing inside client’s homes as part of our next operational steps.” For now, the government is

still advising businesses to minimise non-essential travel and use remote tools where possible.

Guidelines released on May

11 say those who can work from home should continue to do so; that face-to-face meetings are kept to a

minimum and held outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms where possible; and that social distancing guidelines are enforced inside the office. Following the “conditional” roadmap out of lockdown revealed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) on May 10, providers, advice companies and platforms told Financial Adviser about their plans for post-pandemic working life. Despite a mass return to

offices seemingly remaining some way off, advice businesses have begun canvassing employees’ opinions on their next steps. For Ascot Lloyd,

preparations to return to the office began more than three weeks ago. The advice company sent a

questionnaire to all its 440 members of staff last week asking for their preferred plan of action. Mr Stockton said returning

to the office would be phased and “continued flexibility” was key. All floor plans at the company had been reviewed, and only desks two metres apart would be used, with two of Ascot Lloyd’s 19 offices potentially needing to work using split shifts. Neil Moles, chief executive

of Progeny, agreed the use of video conferencing and virtual communication would become permanent features of future relationships with clients. The advice boss said video conferencing was particularly useful for companies such as his that provide multiple client services, such as financial

“Video calls will now be an essential part of our client contact programmes”

planning, tax and legal support, to bring all of a client’s advisers into one virtual ‘room’ at the same time. Progeny has also trained its personal assistants within the business to offer technical support.

All change for providers One positive to come out of the coronavirus crisis is that providers have been forced to accelerate changes to processes and practices, such as a move away from wet signatures. Alastair Conway, chief

executive of James Hay, said: “Getting to greater levels of e-trading was certainly our ambition, but we had other things on our development plate, often regulatory requirements. “If one good thing has come

from this crisis, it’s that it’s focused minds.” Some providers, like Canada

Life, expect to continue accepting electronic signatures after the lockdown, and are also looking at writable PDFs for the most common forms used by advisers. Self-invested personal pension provider Dentons has made it easier for advisers and clients to submit new business cases and deal with ongoing administration/investment matters for existing clients.

It also wants to continue to

make full use of educational webinars for advisers and for individual remote meetings with advisers and clients. But Greg Kingston, group communications director at Curtis Banks, said it was “too early to tell” which processes would be maintained in the future. He said: “There have

definitely been some positives to come out of the situation. This must, however, be taken in the context of what has been a real challenge for advisers and clients, particularly those retiring at this time amid the market turbulence.”

Platforms rebooted For platforms, most business heads said the shift away from wet signatures will be a permanent one. Head of FundsNetwork

Jackie Boylan also pointed to additional benefits, such as the platform’s ‘upload and send’ facility, which enables advisers to upload documents directly to its operational teams. But these businesses, which

tend to have sizeable workforces, admitted there is a long way to go before a permanent return to the office can happen. Ascentric sales head Justin

Blower said the company was looking at ways to support those who were finding it hard to work from home, while Parmenion chief executive Martin Jennings said the business would take a “slow and steady” approach to returning to work. Hargreaves Lansdown stated

it would take the opportunity to “refresh” its flexible and working from home strategies.

Email:,, imogen.


MAY 14 2020

NEWS P1-16





FSCS in focus amid mis- selling risks

A rise in mis-selling claims means Financial Services Compensation Scheme costs may rise by 20 per cent in 2020 and 2021 for companies such as St James’s Place, analysts have warned. A research note from Berenberg said recent market drops, coupled with ongoing issues over defined benefit pension transfers, could trigger a further rise in costs. The company’s analysts said:

“UK equity markets have fallen 23 per cent from their peak, creating significant losses for many investors. The [payment protection insurance deadline] has now passed, leaving a supply of claims management companies searching for ‘new markets’.” They added investors in listed companies like SJP and Hargreaves Lansdown needed to “reframe their thinking”, given the design of the lifeboat scheme means even those with strong processes will be affected. Berenberg predicted the

FSCS levy would make up about 12 per cent of SJP’s cost base and 5 per cent of Hargreaves’ expenses this year. IT

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