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Reassuring Clients in the Next Phase of the Pandemic

Trust between financial professionals and clients is always important. During a health crisis, it’s even more critical.

As we begin a new year, there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful about 2021—not least being the recent success in getting a couple vaccines approved. But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet. The next—and ideally final—phase of the pandemic will be a long transition period in which financial professionals and clients begin resuming normal interactions (across a wide spectrum of comfort levels and preferences). During that period, financial professionals can take several steps to make clients feel safe—regardless of whether those interactions happen virtually or in person.

For Virtual Engagements

You’ve likely been interacting with clients over the phone or on video calls since the beginning of the crisis, and some clients will want to continue that approach. Perhaps they have moved out of the area but want to keep working with you. Perhaps they simply find virtual meetings more convenient, or maybe they are older and in a higher-risk health category. Regardless of the reason, client preferences dictate—you should be able to accommodate virtual meetings on an ongoing basis.

In fact, viewed in the right light, the shift to virtual engagements could create an opportunity to broaden both your potential client base and your talent hiring pool beyond people in your immediate region.

For your clients who continue to interact virtually, increase the frequency of your interactions and outreach. For example, during the transition, you can create an informal set of resources for clients, including ongoing research and publications by infectious disease experts and economists who can provide deeper insights into how the future will unfold.1 During a time of significant uncertainty, this approach can differentiate a firm. In addition, it lays the groundwork for how to respond if subsequent spikes lead to renewed closures—or if new diseases emerge in the years to come.

For In-Person Meetings

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers guidance to businesses on how to function safely during the pandemic:2

  • Limit the number of people who can come in at one time. That may mean no more than 50% of the firm’s employees can work at the office on a given day, with the remainder working from home and coming in on alternate days.

  • Consider meeting at an outdoor location rather than in the office. But, if utilizing public Wi-Fi, cybersecurity guidelines are important to follow.

  • Set clear standards for your employees, ensuring that they don’t come to the office if they don’t feel well, if they’ve traveled to a designated hot spot, or if they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive. (Your state or city department of health will have up-to-date requirements on this.)

  • Take the temperature of everyone who comes into the space and keep a record of who has come in each day.

  • Stay masked and six feet apart. Avoid traditional greetings, like handshakes. Add signage around the office to reinforce social distancing. Ensure that any common areas, like lobbies, have chairs that are sufficiently far apart.

  • Consider adding plexiglass barriers to protect receptionists and guests.

  • Avoid sharing any equipment (computers, phones, desks, workstations, etc.). Before the pandemic, you may have served coffee and snacks to clients. Those are no longer an option. Some firms are now separating “clean” pens from “used” pens—or even giving new pens to each client.

  • Install hand-sanitizing stations throughout the office.

  • If you share a building with other commercial tenants, contact the management company to ensure you understand the protocols for elevators, lobbies, and other common areas. Ask about air filtration standards and potential upgrades to existing equipment.

  • Hire cleaners with specialized sanitation procedures and increase their frequency. They will cost more but are worth it.

Communicate Proactively

Last, communicate all your safety measures to clients in advance of any meeting. Most health guidelines regarding COVID-19 are just that—guidelines. They are not legally binding, and even if they were, enforcement can vary widely. As a result, your clients will want to know exactly what you are doing in terms of following standard precautions for office environments. Again, the right processes can help you stand out by showing your clients that you put their trust first.

The pandemic will ultimately end, but during the gradual return to normal operations, it is critical to take the safety aspect seriously. After all, if your clients trust you to protect their physical safety, they are more likely to continue trusting you to help protect their financial future.

1 Kenneth Kiesnoski and Darla Mercado, “How Coronavirus Put These Financial Advisors’ Practices to the Test,” CNBC.com, June 9, 2020.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “COVID-19: Returning to Work,” Oct. 28, 2020.

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