Creating a Digital Storefront
An Advisor’s Guide to “The New Normal” of Business During COVID-19
It’s the “new normal” they say. “We could see a resurgence in the fall,” some warn. #Stayhomestaysafe or some iteration is everywhere you look. So how is a financial advisor supposed to “advise” amidst a lingering pandemic?
While a pandemic in it of itself is mind-boggling to grapple with, and if you are an advisor who caters to the retirement demographic, you cannot ignore the fact that they are most impacted by this virus. “Business as usual” is simply not an option. You must adapt to survive, thrive and be of service in this new environment.
Gone are the face-to-face in-person interactions where you can create a comforting environment, share a cup of coffee and be personable with your approach. No longer does your fancy office or smell of fresh pastries in the lobby create an impact on your pending relationship, nor do conveniently placed photos of your family, degrees or other achievements lining your walls to work to establish credibility and rapport. In this new normal, you will need to establish this trust and comfort in a new format—a completely digital experience.
Your prospective clients have dramatically shifted their behavior in record time. They are following CDC guidelines and, as a result, have become more tech-savvy at skyrocketing rates. They’re using video streaming to see loved ones, shopping for groceries and necessities on websites and apps and getting their on-demand entertainment through the push of the button. They are adapting to this new normal, and you can too.
Becoming a virtual advisor isn’t as complicated as it sounds. It’s simply identifying your new business processes and transitioning each step to a digital platform. Your live presentations, appointment process, onboarding and ongoing client communication processes call all be done virtually, with the adaption of technology. Sure, it’s not the same, but nothing is. Your services are essential and required during this volatile time, and your targeted client will adapt to this new format of advice as well, especially if it means improving their personal financial situation. Once you’ve worked through your virtual advisor processes, communication will be the driving factor to your success going forward. You will need to communicate how you’ve adapted to meet the needs of your clients and prospects and what they can expect at every step of the process. Your why is quite simply to keep them safe, and everyone can appreciate that. Nearly overnight, you’ve gone from a brick and mortar company to a digital storefront, so some new policies and procedures will need to be developed and communicated as a result.
Creating Your Digital Storefront Policy (DSP)
At AdvisorPR, we encourage you to create a Digital Storefront Policy, a proactive document that explains how you are available to safely provide digital service to your clients. If you are an RIA, you should have some of this information already outlined in your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to pull from, but turning it into a focal point and consumer-friendly message is a tremendous, timely opportunity to showcase your availability. Here is an outline and guidance to get you started:
1. Explain why you’ve created a Digital Storefront Policy.
The health and safety of our clients, staff and community are always our top concern and priority. To continue providing critical engagement, education and information on the financial outlook during these unusual times, OUR COMPANY has established the following Digital Storefront Policy to best meet your needs while keeping you safe and comfortable in your own home.
2. Explain what benefits your client can enjoy because of your Digital Storefront Policy.
Our Digital Storefront Policy works to ensure that you can continue having access to a qualified financial advisor to discuss, strategize and execute on important and timely financial decisions that need to be made.
3. Detail how you will provide digital services:
When needing financial advice, the following steps are adaptions to our standard policies and procedures so we can work with you in a safe virtual environment:
- All interactions are completely virtual. If you have a question or concern, you can contact the company through the contact form on our website (URL), via email at (EMAIL) or by calling (PHONE). On-demand scheduling is also available through (Calendly, ScheduleOnce, TimeTrade or similar).
- Meetings with financial professionals are available via phone, Zoom, Ring Central, Google Hangouts, or whichever platform is readily accessible to the requesting party. (And whatever is an approved format with compliance; keep in mind the security and archiving requirements for your communications.)
- Our document management platform maintains the highest level of security and allows for information to be exchanged between the advisor and client in a safe and secure format. Any confidential information, including account numbers, personal recommendations or otherwise privileged information, should be sent using this platform for your protection. (If you have additional information on your platform, include security credentials here. Keep in mind, your clients may be new to these technologies too, so any educational resources or tips you can provide on their cybersecurity will be valuable. This may even be a great virtual event you can host!)
- Should you request changes to your financial accounts, you will be provided account access through a secure online portal to view financial plans in real-time.
- New accounts or changes to accounts can be made through DocuSign and other online account processing forms. (If you accept payments for planning fees, tax preparation or other ancillary services, you may want to include information on how you accept payment, i.e. Payment for any services can be accepted through Paypal, Venmo, credit card processing platform, etc.)
- Fund withdrawal and deposits can be initiated by contacting SERVICE TEAM EMAIL or visiting custodian URL.
- Ongoing communication on account status, current economic news and general financial advice will continue to be provided via one-on-one meetings, webinars, e-newsletters, social media and similar. (List your platforms here.)
- When the time is right to open our doors, we will be following CDC guidelines for social distancing, enhanced cleaning measures and proper personal protection gear. We look forward to enjoying a cup of coffee or meal with you, but until then we’ll be working hard on your behalf while maintaining the recommended social distancing policies.
Getting clarity on your Digital Storefront Policy is as helpful for you and your team as it is your clients and community. Let them know you’re open and ready for business by getting the word out on how you can still serve their best interest during a pandemic.
For more tips, check out our related blogs: