By Vikram Chugh
March 5, 2021 – When the pandemic hit early in 2020, it seemed everything in our lives was turned upside down overnight. No aspect of our professional lives was more impacted – and, frankly, suddenly more indispensable – than technology. For all of us in the wealth management sector, technology became a lifeline not only for client engagement, but for team interaction as well. Of course, this new reliance on technology took some getting used to and occurred in phases. Looking back, the impact of COVID on technology and how we use it / depend on it has played out in three acts.
Act I (Survive) When the pandemic first took hold in the U.S., many of us optimistically believed it would be a temporary inconvenience. We hurriedly adjusted to working remotely, not really knowing how long it would last. At the time, we weren’t really thinking long term, but, rather, focused on managing the “new normal” of our personal and professional lives, often with the entire family quarantined at home. That involved getting used to video calls and figuring out the best way for intra-company communication. And with multiple/simultaneous video calls often occurring within one household, that presented additional pressures on technology infrastructure and network bandwidth. As the end of spring arrived, it became clear that this new work environment would last much longer than anyone had expected.
Act II (Adapt) When the summer months finally came, there was a collective realization that this was not going to end any time soon. We began asking ourselves, “How do we now pivot to make our current state business as usual?” In other words, “How do we adapt to this for the long haul?” As time went on, more and more of us became comfortable using various communication software, including Zoom, Teams, Slack, WebEx, etc. We started to define workplace etiquette based on these technologies and remote ways of interaction. For many of us, it became clear that stronger infrastructure was needed. We enhanced our home working environments by upgrading network bandwidth and setting up a more complete home office to boost productivity, including monitors, printers, scanners, etc.
Act III (Grow) Where we find ourselves today. Many of us are fully comfortable with the technology that has replaced many of the tasks that were previously accomplished through in-person meetings. At Robertson Stephens, we now conduct full-day diligence meetings, client due diligence and investment recommendations via Zoom. We have spurred additional productivity by leveraging CRM and workflow tools as well as project management applications. Technology has also brought us closer together in ways we couldn’t have appreciated pre-COVID. It has allowed colleagues across the country to get to know one another (and our kids and pets) via video calls that would not have happened before these times. Our ability to pivot and innovate as a firm has allowed us to forge an even stronger foundation for doing business.
While we pride ourselves on having built an end-to-end technology platform at Robertson Stephens that is a leader in the industry, we know we can’t sit on our laurels. We continue to work with both market leaders and start-ups to assure advisors that when they join our firm, they will have systems that can replicate tasks they were able to do pre-COVID and ensure seamless communication with their clients.
So, what is the primary takeaway from our experience with COVID so far? Technology is continuously changing and evolving, faster than ever, in fact. What is the best and newest is not the best and newest for long. At Robertson Stephens, we recognize this reality and are currently thinking about the following:
- What is the future of work? It is an existential question. The reality is that advisors will need to have the best technology solutions at their fingertips to address a future state that includes a decentralized workforce working from various office locations, as well as shared office spaces and home offices.
- How do we enhance the client experience? Clients will increasingly expect a multi-channel approach. Advisors must customize interactions for each client depending upon specific needs, leveraging mobile, video, and hybrid solutions in addition to in-person meetings.
- How do we boost advisor productivity? We will need to improve workflows and data integration across various technology systems, from client prospecting and onboarding, to financial planning, and portfolio management.
- How do we embrace cutting-edge technology in wealth management? Big data is here in a big way. We are able to collect massive amounts of data across all of our systems. We will need to use advanced techniques, including machine learning and natural language processing, to analyze this data and deliver actionable insights and solutions to our clients.
COVID has accelerated many of the trends that were underway in our industry, compressing both the development and the adoption of newer technologies from several years into a year. As we emerge from the pandemic, many of the technological and behavioral changes that have occurred in our professional lives will remain part of the new normal, both because they made us more efficient and driven by continued client demand and expectation.
As the COVID experience has taught us (and continues to teach us), technology is more indispensable than ever, and the next truly great technology solution is waiting for those who choose to be nimble and curious. We are excited about the possibilities as we venture into this new normal.
Investment advisory services offered through Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC (“Robertson Stephens”), an SEC-registered investment advisor. Registration does not imply any specific level of skill or training and does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission. This material is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. Please consult with your Advisor prior to making any Investment decisions. This material is an investment advisory publication intended for investment advisory clients and prospective clients only. Robertson Stephens only transacts business in states in which it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration. A copy of Robertson Stephens’ current written disclosure brochure filed with the SEC which discusses, among other things, Robertson Stephens’ business practices, services and fees, is available through the SEC’s website at: www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. © 2020 Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC. All rights reserved. Robertson Stephens is a registered trademark of Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC in the United States and elsewhere.