May 1, 2020 – As published on FA Magazine

By Karen DeMasters

Working at home “may have legs” after the current coronavirus crisis passes, said Bob Oros, CEO of HighTower Advisors.

The pandemic that has forced many people, including financial advisors, out of the office “may change the way we think about real estate—physical offices—in the future,” Oros said during a panel discussion sponsored by JConnelly public relations about the changes the pandemic is creating.

Most information maintained by businesses has been moved to the cloud, so advisors are well equipped to work at home, said Vikram Chugh, chief operating officer and principal at Robertson Stephens Wealth Management.

“We are realizing we can pack our day” with productive meetings and work “without the crosstown traffic or jumping on a plane,” added Brian Hamburger, founder, president and CEO of MarketCounsel, a compliance and regulatory consulting firm for investment advisors.

HighTower usually brings advisory firm principals considering moving to its platform to its Chicago headquarters for a daylong series of meetings, Oros said. Recently, instead of an in-person visit, the firm conducted the meetings by video.

“We were not sure how well it would go,” Oros said, but added that it went well. “We realized we could do the meetings very effectively in a different format.”

Luke Winskowski, head of Thrivent Advisor Network, added that he did not think the current crisis would stop recruits from joining firms during this time.

“The best recruits will find a way to work through this,” he said.

The coronavirus may bring about other changes that will last after it has passed, said Winskowski. “We are getting back to what is important. We are asking clients what they want their money to do for them. It is not the money that is important; it is what it can do for the client.”

In that vein, the crisis created by the pandemic actually provides an opportunity “for advisors to show their real value,” Hamburger said. “A crisis can be a catalyst for advisors” who can demonstrate their value to the clients. “This can be a golden age for independent advisors,” he added.

Communicating with clients is a key element of success for advisors during a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, explained Chugh. “Some of our clients are also dealing with health issues. Advisors should understand how they can help clients beyond investments. If advisors have developed a good plan for their clients, this is the time to stick to it,” he said.

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