Starting over:

guidelines for fas and financial networks

Bluerating | May 2020

Financial advisors and financial networks have never been so close to their clients – their prompt response to the emergency is characteristic of an industry carrying in its DNA proactivity, empathy and sympathy with clients.

The lack of local branches – only ten years ago seen as a limitation – has gradually become a distinctive feature, however unpopular among some; today, it is a veritable competitive advantage.

In Italy, during the two-month lockdown, financial networks, but also banks, have successfully engaged in several kinds of digital relationships with both clients and financial professionals. This would have required three years or longer to become – as it is today – common practice.

The emergency and the restrictive measures are going to gradually ease; yet, the new ways of communicating will become the new normal, coexisting alongside old habits. So, what should a good financial advisor do? Where is the starting point for this new path?

The monitoring activated by FINER in the wake of the emergency shows a quantitative increase (in intensity, length and frequency) of the communications received. However, this is not accompanied by a corresponding improvement in the quality of communication (too much information, similar and/or redundant, on the edge of spam; too many sources, often inconsistent with each other).

Let’s start with a key assumption: remote communication – that is, communication based on virtual meetings – has its own codes and rules, often dissimilar to those regulating personal interactions.

Therefore, it would be appropriate for financial networks and banks to provide financial professionals with the best and most reliable digital platforms for remote communication with both colleagues and clients.

When it comes to remote communication, contents and professional expertise remain indeed essential, but so are technical skills. Being able to manage a virtual meeting in the best possible way, being familiar with its rules and communication codes, being able to get clients and colleagues involved even from afar: today, these are key conditions for success.

We have witnessed a sudden historical transition comparable to the shift from analogue to digital communication, from fax to email.

The Harvard Business Review has recently identified some guidelines for virtual meetings: using the camera to make people feel closer; starting with topics which may foster interpersonal relationships; choosing a moderator in charge of managing questions and answers, and many others.

Moreover, the research carried out by FINER during the emergency revealed some important information: clients are now more sensitive, they are in need of answers and thus much more willing to listen and to answer questions, especially as they are housebound. And this most certainly represents an important opportunity for financial advisors.

Regardless of the communication channel employed, financial advisors who managed to liaise with clients sincerely and gratuitously will gain the most valuable asset: increased trust and affection from their clients.

Financial networks and banks which invested in digital platforms that are simple and accessible to clients will gain an important competitive advantage.

The emergency we are currently living has made us more vulnerable, but also more reactive; in such context, the mastery of virtual communication channels has become another competitive advantage.

The success factor remains the same as before the emergency and is not going to change in the future: the financial professional’s ability to engage in an empathetic dialogue with his/her client.

The current crisis is going to accelerate the process of natural selection which has been in progress for years: it will give room to the best and most competent financial professionals, sidelining those who are less talented.

If, as they say, ‘a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor’, it is equally true that, in this storm, only the most competent financial advisors will survive, the ones who use their intellect and act from the heart.

Nicola Ronchetti