Brokers should embrace technology in preparation for a new way of working
Getting to grips with remote working has been a steep learning curve for many of us.
The lockdown forced thousands of businesses, large and small, to put in place technology so their employees could work from home.
Perhaps you’ve already dipped a toe into videoconferencing, as a temporary workaround during the pandemic.
But in doing so, you may have stepped into the future of work and, whether you like it or not, you might never fully go back.
The bottom line
Businesses are beginning to seriously consider remote working for the longer term as they factor in the huge potential savings on office space and increased productivity.
Plus, some employees prefer the new way of working, without the time and money spent commuting, and have been keen to boost their digital skills. A recent Lloyds Bank survey found that almost one in three people (31%) have already up-skilled for work reasons.
And of course, we’re not just online during working hours, we’re also spending much of our personal lives – and our money – on the internet.
The lockdown has sent the already-ailing high street into freefall with retail sales down 18.1% in April, and multiple household names closing down. At the same time online retail rocketed to a record high of 30% of all sales, according to the Office for National Statistics.
There’s no doubt the current crisis has acted as a catalyst for the adoption of digital technology, as we increasingly work, buy and live online.
It’s a turning point for technology and brokers should recognise it, and act now.
Future-proof your business
Some advisers already operate wholly online, but many deal with clients face to face, perhaps from an office, the client’s home, or an estate agent’s high street branch.
Think about how that’s likely to change, not just in the coming months, but the coming years. You might be happy to go back to the office, but will your clients want to travel to see you in person or would some prefer a videocall?
Independent advice is still highly valued and that’s unlikely to change – in the current climate it’s more important than ever – but does mortgage advice really need to happen in real life?
Not necessarily. And not always.
If you aren’t confident in your online skills, now’s the time to enhance them and get ready for this step change. Spend time now ensuring you’re confident using videocalls for client meetings over the long term, not just as a temporary measure.
In doing so you can ensure you’re able to give clients choice over how they deal with you – in person, over the phone or face to face. In reality, many clients prefer a mix, with some meetings in person and others online, which is why offering a hybrid advice model is so important.
So, where do you start?
Practical considerations: Firstly, you need to consider what software you are downloading, based on how secure it is and whether it’s efficient and reliable, in order to choose the right videoconferencing system for your needs. [when the second article is published, we can add a link here]
You’ll also need to know how much it costs and, of course, you will have to be trained to use it, effectively and compliantly.
If you’re part of a network, find out what systems your network suggests or requires you to use, and ask whether it offers any support.
Making it personal: We all feel a bit awkward when we start working via videocalls and it’s difficult to recreate the rapport of a face-to-face meeting online. The social cues that enable us to build trust aren’t there and the lack of physicality can make for a stilted conversation.
But since this new way of working is likely to last longer than the lockdown, we need to get used to it. It won’t feel entirely natural at first, and you probably won’t get it right off the bat. Practice with family and friends until you become accustomed to videocalls to ensure you’re ready for a virtual ‘face-to-face’ client meeting.
Remember that lenders are learning too and, at Lloyds Banking Group, we’re working to get better at doing business in the digital world.
The message for brokers and lenders is that now’s the time to embed technology through your business, and we plan to support you by sharing practical tips as we develop our skills and approach to digital meetings.
Look to the future and embrace digital now because, if you want to move forward as an adviser, there’s no going back.
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