Given the crucial phase India is going through in fighting the Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak, the government has announced a complete nationwide 21 days lock-down, at least until April 14, 2020.
Domestic airline services have decided to shutdown from Wednesday, 25 March 2020. Many manufacturing companies have made up their mind to cease production and advised their staff to get ready to ‘fight the storm Corona’ which is impacting India.
Companies have offered their employees an option to Work From Home (WFH), wherever possible, else it’s a forced leave for many. However, financial markets will continue to function as normal. As a result, the financial services industry cannot be locked down since markets are open. But brokers, mutual fund houses, and other related institutions have also allowed their staff to either WFH (or come to the office on a rotation basis).
Will transactions be impacted and investors affected?
Unlikely. Many mutual funds and broking houses have taken adequate measures to allow a seamless transacting experience. Although this may not be as smooth as usual or business as usual, it might be good enough to execute a transaction if one wants to.
In other words, offline transactions won’t be possible in most cases unless investors submit the transaction requests directly to CAMS or other RT agents (as required), provided their offices are open.
Do note that some fund houses have completely stopped accepting offline transaction during the period of lockdown. However, this isn’t a cause of worry as technology is proving to be an enabler and coming to the rescue.
Apart from emails, Apps, and web-based transactions; some fund houses have allowed investors to make transaction requests on WhatsApp. This provides investors with enough choices even when transacting on digital platforms.
What financial advisor can do at this juncture while working from home?
- Reach out to investors/clients in a productive way — educate them about various digital platforms
- Encourage investors/clients and route their transactions online.
- Offer seamless online support if they aren’t accustomed to the online systems
The on-going lockdown offers advisors an opportunity to make investors/clients digitally savvy and may improve your digital presence too.
The development of platforms has been inspiring. For instance, the capital market regulator has allowed investors to access the BSE STAR MF platform, which was earlier only used by mutual fund distributors and advisors to perform mutual fund transactions (buy and sell) for and on behalf of their clients.
Likewise, there is the MFU platform — the Indian mutual fund industry’s shared service initiative formed by the Asset Management Companies (AMCs) of SEBI-registered Mutual Funds with an objective of investor empowerment, distributor/RIA convenience — through which investors can transact in multiple mutual fund schemes across fund houses.
Besides this, there are robo-advisory platforms where the investors’ risk profiling, to an extent goal planning, and asset allocation can be done with algorithm-based intelligence to recommend the potentially best suited mutual fund schemes.
Now, while your involvement as an efficient human advisor adds a personal touch and build relationships founded on empathy, care, integrity; maintain ‘social distancing’ (a must in amid the coronavirus outbreak) and make the best use of technology to grow the advisory business.
In the technologically evolving world, the financial advisory business cannot ignore technological advances.
Here are some of the advantages of using technology…
- Wider reach (beyond the boundaries of the region one practices in)
- Risk profiling can be done using an online risk profiling tool
- Increases the service accessibility almost 24×7
- Reduces the conversion time
- Enhances efficiency in business/advisory practice
- Provides advisors with more time in hand to stay abreast with new developments in the industry, technology, and conduct comprehensive research
Advisors may also make the best use of digital marketing to propagate services, impress, and carve a niche. One of the best ways to do this is to articulate views on investing and educate investors/prospective clients by posting videos, informative and research-based articles, e-books, case studies, infographics, etc. on third party websites, own website and social platforms. With this content, eventually, investors will connect and look for more pointed advice.
By running dedicated social media campaigns, reaching out to the target audience is possible. A lot of brands do this by running their Facebook page and Twitter campaigns in order to engage with their prospective customers/clients. Social media helps in lead generation.
Notwithstanding the above, you should also use practice management software to serve clients with better efficiency. Along with data, data analytics is also essential. Devoting resources to track this activity yields business.
In these challenging times of the Coronavirus outbreak, where the impact has also been felt by the capital markets across the globe, reviewing your clients portfolio online is also necessary. Remember, just as the way you are taking necessary precautions and preventive measures to remain medically healthy; investors also need your prudent counsel, remedial measures to improve the health of their investment portfolio. Thus, handhold them in the journey of wealth creation. They look up to you as their financial guardian or a financial doctor. Make an effort to instill their confidence, trust, and leave a smile on their face.
As India is inching towards the phase-III of Coronavirus outbreak and many states are taking social distancing measure, it’s imperative for you to brace up for an extended WFH experience. Markets are likely to remain volatile and investors jittery.
Instead of worrying about falling markets (and mounting losses), treat this time as a golden opportunity to make yourself and your investors/clients ready for the digital future. Once the Coronavirus is contained and things get back to normal, you might reap rich dividends of going digital.