Last year upended the many ways people live their lives and manage their finances. And it’s no different for financial advisors and those who work with them. So, what do financial advisors do, and how did 2020 change the way they conduct business and serve clients?


“A financial advisor is somebody who you engage to help you make better money decisions,” said Cullen Fischel, owner and financial planner at Prosperity Financial Design. “I think that’s probably the easiest way to describe what a financial advisor does. They provide advice that is intended to lead to a better outcome for your financial future.”

While this is a big-picture definition of what financial advisors do, the workings of it include everything from planning to building your portfolio and/or retirement plan. It also may include a college savings plan and an estate plan. Usually, a financial advisor will take a holistic approach, such as reviewing your tax and insurance situation. They’ll also review your family composition, your age, goals and risk tolerance, and other aspects that go into building a secure financial future for you. Read our latest financial advisors’ guide.

What Financial Advisors Will Do Post-Covid 19 Pandemic

So, while the basics of running a financial advice business didn’t change in 2020, it seems that more investors realized the value of having one holistic approach. The volatility of the markets and importance of having access to cash and other resources spiked in 2020. In addition, lockdowns pushed advisors to quickly adopt technologies to communicate with clients virtually.

“More people recognized the value of financial planning and were willing to pay for it than ever before,” said Troy Jones, CFP Board Ambassador and founder of Access Financial Resources. “Our business is up 30% this year.”

He explained that he noticed that in times of uncertainty or when times are tough, “people seem to understand, appreciate and value the planning to help navigate that.”

Jalina Kerr, senior vice president of client experience at Schwab Advisor Services, said, “It’s been a crazy year. We certainly have seen a lot of shifts in how advisors are interacting with us and working with us.”

Financial Advisors Quick To Adapt

The biggest thing in terms of how financial advisors are working, she said, “is really around how they were able to adjust to support clients virtually throughout the pandemic. They had to adapt pretty quickly over the course of a couple of weeks to figure out how they’re going to start supporting clients through digital tools and doing it in a secure way.”

She said it wasn’t just the transactions that needed to happen digitally, but also client collaboration. Before, they would sit with them face to face in an office. Now, advisors have to find new technological tools to maintain that client relationship.

That was probably one of the biggest challenges, she noted, as this is a business that’s based on personal interaction with clients.

So, Schwab stepped in to help advisors in these treacherous times.

While Schwab had already been exploring many new systems, the pandemic made the whole process speed up. The company removed many barriers to digital utilization, explained Kerr.

The company expanded its suite of DocuSign (DOCU) forms. As a result, “utilization of that channel grew by 40% since March,” she noted.

Financial Advisors Open Accounts Paperlessly

Schwab also reduced fees that it charged for wires submitted through its digital channel and waived some notary requirements for trust accounts. But it also increased dollar limits for deposits, such as check deposits or ACH transfers for investors or their financial advisors.

Opening digital accounts also provides more efficiency as well as a secure way for financial advisors to access the platform. Kerr said this year 40% of all accounts were opened digitally and that it’s a completely paperless process. “That channel is really starting to show dramatic adoption,” she said.

She said this was something that Schwab was already working on but “it paid dividends in the environment that we found ourselves in this year.”

Collaboration And Educational Tools

Virtual collaboration and education tools also saw increased demand and use by advisors. Webcasts, white papers and other online resources to help advisors better support their clients digitally saw a significant uptick in 2020.

“I think when advisors are supporting their clients, they really need to have the time to connect directly, to reassure them, to understand how and what’s happening in the marketplace is a natural component of the investing cycle,” said Kerr.

What do financial advisors do to gain more time with clients? “If advisors can eliminate manual or time-intensive processing of things within their back office, it frees up time and can really prove to be a catalyst for them to free up that time that they need to spend with their clients,” she added. “And in an environment like the one we’re in, spending that time directly with clients and maintaining those connection points is so critical to keeping that relationship and supporting them even more so than in the past.”


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