How Would Firms Manage a Stay at Home Salesforce?

Are we living in the new reality?  There’s lots of talk about financial advisors working remotely post pandemic.  There’s lots of good reasons, primarily focused on public health.  Will it be safe to return to offices with bullpen layouts?  What about clients coming into the office?  Without answers, advisors working remotely sounds like a logical alternative.  This solution provides it’s own set of challenges.

In a perfect world, the strategy works.  A highly motivated advisor bounds out of bed, dresses for work in their Work From Home (WFH) wardrobe, has breakfast and gets started.  The workday has been extended because the hour commute on each end has been eliminated.  What could possibly go wrong?

  1. Morale issues.  The job of a financial advisor involves hearing “No” often.  In a big office, you can lean over the partition and commiserate with your peers.  Get a pep talk from your sales manager.
  2. Idea sharing.  Selling is often about enthusiasm.  You have an idea you believe in.  You are sharing it with prospects and clients.  Where might this idea originate?  The guy on the other side of that partition.  They shared it while you were moaning.  It picked up your spirits, you picked up the phone.  Working at home involves Zooming.  It’s not the same.
  3. Zooming.  Advisors will need to get comfortable with being on camera.  They will need dedicated office space that’s neat and clean.  They will need to learn about lighting and camera angles, so they are presented to best advantage.  Put another way, when I FaceTime I often think: “Do I really look like that?  That’s horrible.  Where did those wrinkles come from?”
  4. Compliance.  Lets assume some firms record and archive calls.  E-mails too.  That’s easy when everything is on a firm system.  Yes, the firm can route your calls to your home or cell number, but they likely give up the ability to record.  We assume advisors are honest, only communicating with clients using their firm e-mail address.  This might not the case with “bad actors” who have their personal e-mail account on another screen nearby.
  5. Ties that bind.  Your firm has a good reputation.  It’s one of the reasons you joined.  There’s a firm culture, picked up in office meetings, conversations with fellow advisors and at firm conferences.  Working alone as a “one man band” with remote sales support may be the first step towards leaving the firm and going independent.  This might be good for the advisor, but not the parent firm.
  6. That big building.  Prospects want to know you are for real.  They aren’t being scammed.  Walking into your office tower, taking the elevator to your floor and being greeted at a reception desk under the firm logo is powerful.  So is being led to your office.  Working from home removes this advantage.
  7. Tracking activity.  Firms measure everything.  Some is advisor reported, other data is gathered remotely.  Your CRM system is a good example.  The firm can see what you have been doing.  How will firms know if people are being productive at home?  If net new assets and new accounts falls, it might be too late.
  8. Confidentiality.  How secure is your home computer?  Can a friend hit a few keys and look at client data while you are letting the dog out?  Can they take screenshots and e-mail them?  It’s easy to prevent this in a big office with many eyes watching.  Less so at home.
  9. Where will you see prospects?  Advisors and clients will want a personal connection.  Will the advisor meet at the client’s home or office?  Will the prospect visit at the advisor’s home?  Will they meet at the firm’s office in the city, using a conference room?  We are creating the problem we sought to avoid.
  10. Lead distribution.  There are still leads.  Walk ins.  Call ins.  Leads from firm websites.  How will they be distributed?  It’s not a big problem, but it’s more transparent with a “broker of the day” assignment system.

Everyone likely sees advisors working from home as a good, but temporary solution.  There are many questions to be answered regarding public safety before advisors can return to offices, especially in big cities.  There are plenty of problems needing solutions if advisors work from home permanently.

Related: Imagine a World Without Financial Advisors