Coronavirus: Remote working for financial services

World leaders have said to prepare for a substantial period of disruption while they deal with the global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). With social distancing measures in place and total lockdown being enforced in some countries, people and businesses all over the world have had to adapt suddenly to a new way of working.

For some companies this is entirely new territory leading it to be dubbed ‘the largest mass exercise in remote working in history’. It’s an unprecedented situation with a large proportion of the global workforce now working from home in an attempt to delay and contain the virus.

This is a real test for businesses and most aren’t prepared for it.

Netflix and bills

With our increasingly connected ‘always on’ lifestyles, the prospect of self-isolation might sound quite appealing at first. A bit of Netflix, some home shopping, online takeaway deliveries; but the reality is, millions could be pushed into financial hardship if forced to stop work or stay at home.

People will need access to financial support and advice, more than ever. They’ll have questions about how they can pay their bills or mortgage if they are unable to work. They might have read those frightening headlines in the media about how Coronavirus fears have caused the biggest stock market losses since the 2008 financial crisis and look for reassurance that their retirement funds and investments are safe or want advice on what to do.

For financial services it's business as usual - with a difference. It's going to have to be delivered remotely.

Face up to it

The face-to-face versus remote service delivery model is always a popular debate in financial services but usually it’s not an either/or thing.

In normal circumstances most financial businesses still use a blend of both. But these aren’t normal circumstances. People have been stopped from travelling and social distancing measures mean face to face meetings aren't possible, putting a greater dependency on the strength of your digital proposition.

So what have you got in your COVID-19 digital toolkit?

People will need access to financial support and advice, more than ever.

Video conferencing app

The sudden requirement for millions to work from home has led to a surge in demand for video conferencing apps. In financial services, this technology has slowly but surely been adopted over the years as more advisers realise clients want to engage virtually (and because it’s a lot cheaper and more convenient than travelling to meetings). But it still doesn’t come naturally to some. Could the Coronavirus outbreak mean video call technology becomes a more accepted and expected part of financial services delivery?

Client portal

There’s an expectation that working remotely or from home means always being ‘on’ and available 24/7. A client portal is your way of realistically managing and delivering on those expectations. With the Coronavirus causing financial worry, a client portal can give people the comfort and control they need over their finances without it feeling like a burden. Use it to stay in touch with clients directly through instant messaging and broadcast news and updates to your entire client base - this could be handy as the COVID-19 situation develops.

Digital signatures

When people can’t be in the same room to sign a document (or don’t want to touch pens and paper for fear of catching the virus) digital or e-signatures, which allow clients to sign anything you want to share with them using any device, are a practical and essential part of your remote working toolkit.

Chatbots

If reports are to be believed, masses of people could be off work at the same time causing pressure on already stretched front-line teams. Conversational chatbots can help alleviate some of this pressure by answering or resolving simple queries via an app or website. Already in use by some banks and financial institutions to deliver service 24/7, it will be interesting to see how AI chatbot technology is further deployed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Online communities

These valuable resources are there to help you connect with your peers, share information and support each other. For all its upsides, working from home can be isolating. Look after your mental health and wellbeing too by using online communities like the Iress Community to get closer to your peers and maintain that all-important human contact.

A client portal can give people the comfort and control they need over their finances without it feeling like a burden.

Keep calm and carry on

The COVID-19 outbreak is a changing situation. No one knows yet how it might escalate further or what actions governments might take next.

Ensure you have a business continuity plan and that it’s up to date. You’re more likely than ever to need one, yet over half of companies globally don’t have plans or protocols in place to deal with a global emergency such as coronavirus.

It’s important to not get distracted by this. Rest assured that your financial software will enable you to operate effectively across a number of different scenarios. You never know, you might find better, more efficient ways of working that become part of your regular practice. Be adaptable. There’s a strong chance that after this, we’ll see lasting changes in working culture and a greater acceptance of remote working from companies.

The coronavirus outbreak has presented a valuable opportunity to reconnect with your clients and to offer your assistance to them and their families, especially those that are more vulnerable. So keep doing what you’re doing using the financial software and workplace technology tools you have. Let your takeaway app sort the pizza.

We’re closely monitoring the coronavirus situation to support the welfare of our people and continuity to our clients. You can read how we're responding here.

Need some help to get the best out of your tech or got a question? Just give us a call.

For free resources and support to help guide you through the coronavirus crisis, including tips and advice from our team on how to work effectively and securely from home, visit our dedicated hub.