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Still Working from Home? Give Yourself a Home-Field Advantage.

Some financial professionals occasionally may need to work from home for the foreseeable future. Here’s how to set up a home office for success.

Financial professionals may still be working from home due to COVID-19, and that’s not likely to disappear anytime soon. Even as stay at home orders ease, some firms may decide to allow, or encourage, people to work from home more frequently. And another outbreak later this year or next could put everyone in lockdown again. The bottom line—you should be prepared to work from home for the foreseeable future.

To succeed in this new normal, you need to focus less on the “home” part and more on the “office” component—particularly when you interact with clients. All of your communications will happen over the phone or via a videoconference instead of face-to-face—no longer a short-term exception but now the default mode of communication. And success requires that every aspect is polished. (The following suggestions are not allowable for all financial professionals, work with your compliance department to determine how you can customize your communications in a manner that meets expectations.)

Professionalize Your Set-Up

When making video calls, don’t just prop your laptop on a dictionary on the dining room table. As with any client interaction, you want to create the right environment. Set up a separate, dedicated space in a quiet place.

Technology is important too. Regarding software, you should establish this with your firm’s IT department. For hardware, you don’t need to set up a full production studio, but you can stand out by investing in some basic equipment, like professional lighting. A basic green screen behind you will allow you to add a digital background with your firm’s logo—a small detail, but one that makes you look professional. (Canva is a good option for graphics.)

You should also tailor your set-up to the way you like to communicate with clients. Rather than just walking clients through prepared materials like a PowerPoint presentation, you should be able to highlight specific aspects. 

For a truly professional look, you can buy a lightboard—akin to a see-through whiteboard—and put it between you and the camera. That approach lets you write on the board while still facing clients, so you can illustrate financial concepts. You’ll need to flip the video image horizontally so viewers don’t see the writing appear backwards (that’s a simple on/off feature in most videoconference systems) and you’ll also need to adjust the lights to avoid glare off the glass.

Flood the Zone with Outbound, Proactive Communication

Second, when markets are volatile, many clients will be hungry for information and insights, and you may not have time to talk with them all individually. Now that you have a professional set-up for video calls, you can also use that to create video content that you push out to your entire client base. This can be market insights, advice on financial planning, or anything in response to the types of concerns and questions you see in clients. By reaching out in this way, you can show that you’re anticipating their needs—while also working in a more efficient way than all one-on-one discussions.1

Critically, this content should span the full range of media channels. You can create a client resource page on your firm’s website with videos that cover different top-of-mind topics, along with educational webinars. And you can put out customized content on channels like Instagram and Facebook, with links to embedded videos. Frequent communication builds engagement with your clients.1

Be Diligent About Security

Last, don’t ignore the security aspect. One recent study found that only 7% of financial professionals use dedicated cybersecurity applications.2 All software should be approved or provided by your firm’s IT department. Most firms should have standard cybersecurity protocols in place now to help address the new norm. You should use a virtual private network (VPN), and set up a dedicated computer, printer, and any other hardware that you—and only you—use for work. No sharing with other people in your family, and no personal applications or programs on those devices. If you have home assistant devices like Alexa or Echo within earshot during video calls, you should unplug them.3

Working from home has clearly been a big disruption for most financial professionals, but it’s one that is likely to have lasting implications. And with the right mindset, it can also be an opportunity to differentiate yourself and better serve clients.

1 Clara Shih, “Five Ways to Deepen the Long-Term Advisor, Client Relationship Amid COVID-19,” ThinkAdvisor, April 2, 2020.
2 Ginger Szala, “6 Tech Mistakes to Avoid When Working From Home,” ThinkAdvisor, April 3, 2020.
3 Ellen Chang, “12 Tips for Working from Home,” TheStreet.com, April 17, 2020.

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