“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This compelling quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, came to my mind as I pondered the pivotal lessons learned by financial advisors during the coronavirus pandemic. The past year has witnessed incredible upheaval and change in our society, economy and industry. Last spring, we all thought the onslaught of Covid-19 might disrupt our lives for a few weeks, or maybe a month or two at most.
Little did we realize that we’d still be in the throes of it a year later, continuing to adapt our business operations. But I believe managing through this crisis has enabled many advisors to become better business owners, poised to sustain their success in a post-pandemic world.
Adapting To Adversity
Keep in mind that many RIA firm CEOs launched their businesses between the end of the Great Recession in 2009 and start of the pandemic in 2020, enjoying an incredible boom market for several years. As the market climbed throughout that decade, asset values increased substantially and revenues grew accordingly. Then the coronavirus hit, and suddenly many RIA owners faced genuine adversity for the first time. They needed to serve as real leaders, attempting to keep their staff intact, focused and motivated.
Plus, RIA owners had to figure out how to run their businesses with most employees working remotely, and devise innovative ways to stay connected with client bases that often weren’t technologically advanced. All of these issues needed to be addressed essentially through trial by fire.
Revealing Reassessment The pandemic also forced many advisors to reassess aspects of their business such as real estate, a significant expense made easier to endure while revenue was soaring. Once RIA firms proved able to manage through the pandemic with mostly remote workforces, it naturally created questions like, “Going forward, do I really need a palace-like setting with 4,200 square feet of office space?”
Additionally, prior to the pandemic, RIA owners often addressed growth by simply hiring more people. That was an easy approach and, as with real estate, the expenses could be justified in an environment of constantly increasing revenue. But many owners now wonder whether they should start finding more elegant, scalable solutions than just onboarding additional personnel.
Those solutions could entail increased technological adaptation, along with strategic outsourcing. In the case of technology, many advisors might have previously resisted upgrading, believing their traditional business practices were working just fine. But advisors who spent wisely on technological upgrades prior to the pandemic were far better equipped when remote work and client communication became forced on the entire industry.
In terms of outsourcing, contracting with an external organization might prove a better option to fill a given void than hiring a new full-time employee, as the tasks could be completed more efficiently while also costing less.
New Lease On Professional Life Finally, the pandemic awakened many RIA owners to the idea that they just weren’t enjoying the business as much anymore, having become so mired in menial tasks of ownership that they really missed what led them to become financial advisors in the first place—helping clients.
These owners are now carefully considering options that would allow them to focus more on advising current clients or attracting new prospects. One possibility is hiring a professional consultant or business coach to conduct an unbiased analysis of the firm and recommend changes designed to enhance efficiency.
In many ways, this crisis has provided RIA owners with the least-expensive business school education they’ll ever receive, resulting in cathartic moments that offer them a chance to become born again in a professional sense.
Lessons Learned I have no intention to understate the horrible personal, economic and global toll of the pandemic over the past year. Too many lives have been lost and too many others greatly harmed. It has unquestionably been a brutal period in the history of humankind.
My point is rather, to emphasize that out of this crisis, an opportunity exists for financial advisors to emerge stronger, wiser and better as business owners and managers. The key will be taking those important managerial lessons learned and applying them in a post-pandemic world. Advisors who do so will not only benefit their firms, but also prove more capable of dealing with whatever the next crisis might be, having not “wasted” this one.
Stan Gregor is the CEO of Summit Financial, headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey.