INVENT Elite thought leaders discuss what the workplace of the future might look like, the financial implications for firms and advisors and the changing dynamics of client-advisor matching.
Suzanne Siracuse, CEO of Suzanne Siracuse Consulting
Oleg Tishkevich, CEO of INVENT.us
Joel Brukenstein, Founder of T3
Gavin Spitzner, President of Wealth Consulting Partners
Tim Welsh, President of Nexus Strategy
Suzanne: So great. So listen, I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts around remote working. We’re all still remote, but is remote here to stay? Are we going to return to office environments? What are some of the technology apps that will be, you know, become indispensable moving forward? So, Tim, I would love to start with you because we haven’t heard from you yet and then move over to Oleg. Is this here to stay like is it depending upon where you live? Tell me what you think. What’s the crystal ball telling you?
Tim: Well, I don’t think we need a crystal ball to know that. Absolutely, this is the way it’s going to be. It’s a quite remarkable experiment. I think everyone was forced, to your point about change, forced to adapt, and I think was a fantastic test that most firms found that, you know what, it actually works. We can actually do business from home. We can do business remote. And I’ve heard many advisors saying, hey, you know, we’re going to cut our office space in half. We don’t need it anymore, or we’re just going to get rid of it completely and just go this route because it’s so much more efficient and the cost savings. So, I think one of the interesting “benefits” that did come from the pandemic and everyone’s forced to shelter in place is that, yes, you can do this and there are workarounds and the technology is shined. I mean, I think when we needed it most, the Internet was there to perform. I think if that Internet didn’t come through for us, we would be all in a world of hurt. But we have the infrastructure and to earlier conversations we’ve had about adoption and being forced to use this stuff. So, I think, you know, the one aspect, you know, people still want to come together, and I hope we will come together. And I think that we’re starting to see that people want to come back to the office. So, I think it’ll be a hybrid event but I think this idea of having to be a local geography or anywhere is pretty much that myth has been debunked. And we can run a powerful organization a little bit differently, but we can do it. So, I definitely think this is here to stay and it’ll be a major factor for all business going forward.
Suzanne: So what are some of the solutions and the tech applications that are winning in this remote work environment, what have you been seeing?
Tim: Well, two things. One, obviously, you know, communication, video conferencing has been just a godsend for everyone because we can do all this great stuff. We saw the NFL draft do it virtually. We did our awards meeting, we did that virtually. We can do the Emmys or this weekend, that was virtually. So, it can be done on a large scale. I also think, you know, beyond just the client portal, we’ve always had multiple client portals. But I think now, more so than ever, people want to be able to touch with their advisor and their investments and see it, touch it, feel it more so than ever. So, having that digital component has been just two aspects, I think, that have been really done very well. And people providing those platforms are reporting just extended usage of what they had built for clients as more of a convenience now with more of a necessity. Because you know what we do know, again, back to some research, is that the number one reason clients fire their advisors, because the lack of communication and that’s in every survey done in good times and bad. So, communication becomes more and more important and we have to do it digitally and electronically and through video. So, video first is going to be the way to go. So, I think those are the short list of what I think has really been transformational to survive this interesting time.
Suzanne: You know, you brought up two things that I think are really interesting. One is the office space, right? And in all the benchmarking studies that are out there around adviser benchmarking and, you know, how do you scale your business better – other than people and salaries, the number one cost is real estate. So, like, that is just, I think, is really something that we should all be paying attention to with, you know, margins. What will advisers do if they if they do downsize their office space and have less costs allocated to real estate, where will they take that investment, will they put it in technology? Will they put it in, I don’t know, any other types of investment research? Will they put it in additional staffing? So, I think that’s an important trend for us to take a look at as we go through this process.
Joel: With respect to that as well, Suzanne, I mean, somebody is going to incur the cost. So basically, if everybody downsizes, and I’m not convinced that everybody would, but let’s just say every adviser needs half the amount of office space. Well, every employee who’s working from home is going to need a home office. So, they’re going to be upsizing. Well, you know, the commercial real estate market’s downsizing. So then who’s going to pay for that additional space? If you’re working from home and you are living in a one-bedroom apartment and now you need to do a three-bedroom town home, right. So, there’s two sides to every coin and I don’t know how that’s going to shake out. Some of the money may go to giving advisors raises so they can buy more real estate of their own to work from home.
Suzanne: Yeah, it’s interesting. Gavin or Oleg, what are your thoughts on technology, remote working.
Gavin: I think one of the interesting things that this is highlighting the opportunity for is, and we already saw it happening with advisors that were focusing more on, a niche and really specializing in a client segment. And so, getting away from geography as being the main driver of where the pool that they’re fishing in and focusing more on specialization. So, we’re seeing some interesting tools come on online that’s more about matching advisors with clients based on what’s that client looking for, even personality matching much more then then geographically based.