TAL’s Niall McConville offers his thoughts on how disruption to the financial advice process brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic may lead to new opportunities for advisers and advice businesses, especially those who are able to adapt best in a post-Covid world…

When Covid-19 first began to create concern on a global scale, no one could have really foreseen the extent of the pandemic and the challenges it would bring to individuals and businesses alike.

…the industry will never again return to what was once considered normal

Financial advice practices have been disrupted in a way we could never have anticipated, and the industry will never again return to what was once considered normal. However, the disruption that continues to change the financial advice landscape also presents great opportunities for advisers and the industry as we enter a new world, living alongside COVID-19.

Advisers should take the time to reflect on learnings from their efforts to overcome the challenges of the 18 months and embrace an even more personalised and holistic approach to supporting changing consumer needs. This reflection and change in approach can only lead to a stronger and more successful industry.

Adapting to disruption and embracing the new normal

Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for advisers to demonstrate the value of financial advice and it’s been great to see advisers stepping up again to support their clients. I have personally heard so much great feedback from advised consumers around the strong communication they received from their adviser and how reassured they felt having an adviser. With many Australians facing continued uncertainty and change, the ability of advisers to provide clarity and reassurance on their clients’ personal financial situations is more important than ever as people seek confidence in their own financial decision making.

The increasing awareness of the role advisers play, alongside the falling adviser numbers, has led to an increased demand for financial advice services. As a result, those advisers who remain in the industry – and those who have more recently entered – will face more demand for what they do and they will become busier.

…advisers can now work beyond their local area being more selective about their target client

To maintain a high standard of service while meeting this demand and responsibility, advisers will need to focus on increasing their efficiency and effectiveness in communicating and working with clients. The pandemic has kick started this by creating opportunities for advisers and clients to connect anywhere, at any time. With widespread adaptation to non-traditional ways of engagement, advisers can now work beyond their local area being more selective about their target client as serviceability is no longer limited by physical distance.

Successful client-adviser relationships can last up to 40 years and sometimes beyond that, and the growing demand for tailored advice will only add to the value that advisers deliver to their clients and communities. It’s fantastic to see an uplift in customers seeking long-term financial guidance and I expect that this growth will continue as the world around us continues to change.

Taking forward the learnings from the pandemic

While the pandemic has positively changed the way advisers operate their businesses, it’s important to remember that an adviser’s purpose has not changed; it has just adapted to meet changing customer expectations and our evolving digital environment.

Expanding technological capabilities can only benefit advisers in helping them to continue offering timely and relevant advice. Technology can assist advisers in striking the balance between meeting clients’ desire for instant gratification, while also addressing clients’ future needs with robust long-term financial plans. By embracing new communication methods and being available for meetings via the likes of video conferencing, there is an opportunity for advisers to redefine the way they think and operate to better meet client needs, and in turn grow their businesses.

To support the financial wellbeing of Australians now and into the future, it’s essential that both insurers and advisers capitalise on the opportunities presented by these changes.

The future looks bright

Over the past 18 months, advisers have shown they’re flexible and responsive to any changes and challenges they are presented with, and this has helped set the industry up well to move towards a more prosperous future.

We know that most advisers won’t work the same way they previously did, as clients expect them to operate differently and be more available, so those that accept and embrace change will be best placed to succeed in the new era.

Insurers have a role to play in supporting advisers through this period, and TAL is committed to helping advisers navigate these changes with support from our technical, BDM teams and a host of resources through our adviser education program, TAL Risk Academy.

We have all had a year of reflection and learning and there are a lot of key takeaways in terms of ways advisers can better manage their practices and communicate with their clients. The future of financial advice will continue to be one of providing empowerment and confidence and I look forward to seeing what this year and future years bring to the industry

Niall McConville is General Manager Retail Distribution at TAL.

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