In time of emergency italy goes digital

Smart-working and Covid-19

Advisor | April 2020

Before the coronavirus emergency, 2% of employees worked from home in Italy, compared to 20,2% in the UK, 16,6% in France, and 8,6% in Germany. Then, the pandemic broke out and in two weeks – the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies reports – a little less than one million employees have been asked to work from home. The number is growing everyday: the main phone operators report that the fixed line data use has increased of 20% on average with peaks of 50%. It is the largest remote work experiment that has ever been carried out in our country.

In truth, the coronavirus emergency has caught us completely and unexpectedly unprepared; yet, it took only a few days, especially following the more restrictive measures, to find ourselves much more digitalized than we could have reasonably expected.

After the initial dismay (of parents) and happiness (of children) faced with the news of the closure of schools, teachers started classes on educational digital platforms still unknown to many.

The trips, meetings, the sudden and incessant movement which characterize the typical working week of bankers and financial advisors have been replaced by videocalls, videos, chats and phone calls.

The video conference has been completely legitimized, even in the case of extremely wealthy clients (Privates or HNWIs), who are very often over seventy.

Italian people can make virtue of necessity, so to speak. Many among the most expert banks and networks immediately sent reassuring emails and video messages to their clients, worried by an unprecedented health emergency and also by its impact on the financial markets, which showed high instability causing panic among the population.

Some of the most prepared and proactive managers and private bankers organized webinars and podcasts for their clients.

Social networks – especially professional ones, first among them LinkedIn – replaced all their meeting events – conferences, seminars, business lunches and dinners.

Financial consultancy relies on the relationship between client and professional: the face-to-face meeting was, is and will probably always be an unreplaceable custom of such relationship, and the handshake its most classic emblem.

And yet, faced with the emergency and thus unable to respect such customs, clients and professionals promptly adapted to new ways of working.

A research conducted by Finer since early March, following the entry into force of the more restrictive measures, clearly shows how financial advisors were the first to benefit from such a competitive advantage in the management of their clients, thanks to the high level of digitalization reached by their employers.

In fact, clients had, once again, a chance to appreciate the proactiveness of their financial advisor, who promptly contacted them by phone call (62%), email (45%) or text (27%). Financial advisors reassured their clients and offered to provide explanations of the health emergency (66%) and its impact on investments (83%).

Both financial advisors (82%) and their clients (77%) had a chance to use and appreciate remote means of communication as a substitute for the customary face-to-face meetings; and this even before the latest Decree (Source: Finer Finance Mirror 2020; sample: 300 financial advisors and 500 end investors; collection of data: 2-9 March).

The more traditional banks, while showing an exceptional ability to react to the emergency, were perhaps the most unprepared and vulnerable because of their high territorial coverage (higher than networks) and the presence of tens of thousands of branch employees unable to stop their working activity.

The local financial and bank industry has shown an exceptional ability to adapt to the new situation, demonstrating that we can survive even without meetings, without lunches, dinners, cocktails, seminars and conferences.

With the certainty that soon we will shake hands again.