In Part 1 of this 3-part series, Challenging paradigms about the conventional working office, we shared the five main concerns that our members experienced during the lockdown and when transitioning to remote working. These are illustrated below.
Part 1 dealt with two concerns, managing operational risks and communication ability.
Part 2 provided you with practical suggestions and ideas that addressed data and equipment security concerns.
In this newsletter, Part 3, we look at ways to address the two remaining concerns, KI Succession linked to health concerns and mental health.
Business Health Australia, in their Future Ready VIII whitepaper excerpt, found that 72% of Financial Advisors have no written Succession/Buy Sell Plan. Of those that do, 62% have identified a Successor who has agreed, while 67% have arranged funding and only one in ten practices have an effective Succession Plan in place today. Further to this, within five years, 25% of the practices in the research study’s dataset are looking to exit the business. At Masthead, 19% of our members identified KI Succession as a concern linked to health concerns. The research highlights the need for Succession Planning in the industry and the concern to prepare adequately, with the alternative being clients left without a Financial Advisor, exposing the business to risk and vulnerability.
Research has also identified that the lockdown has had an impact on the mental health of South Africans. Findings from a survey by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) identified anxiety and panic, financial stress and pressure and depression as some of the main challenges experienced during lockdown.
We ask you to consider the following questions in relation to your own situation:
- Have you taken steps to plan for your succession?
- When was the last time you had a check-in with your employees, related to not only their productivity but also their morale?
1. Ensuring business continuity
FSPs are concerned about KI Succession which is linked to health concerns such as COVID-19. Feedback from our members show that not all FSPs or Key Individuals have a Succession Plan in place. The risk here is that should anything happen to the Key Individual the business may be unable to continue its operations, which leaves those dependent on the FSP at a loss, e.g. family, employees and clients. The impact could be far-reaching, both from a personal and a client perspective. Section 20 of the FAIS General Code of Conduct requires that, if the FSP or Representative ceases to operate, affected clients should be aware of alternatives in order to ensure outstanding business is completed or transferred to another provider. Last but not least, abiding by the spirit of TCF would require a workable process to be put in place to ensure that clients are not left without a Financial Advisor.
Solution: Although in practice it is not always easy, it may be worthwhile to start seeking a successor and develop a Succession Plan to ensure that the business is able to continue in the event of voluntary (retirement) and/or involuntary (disability or untimely death) departure. Research by Business Health of Australia shows that those businesses who have a documented Succession Plan in place experience a +36% impact on profit. If you have already identified a successor, and the due diligence process has been completed and contracts or agreements have been put in place, it may be worthwhile to identify ways of encouraging engagement between your successor and your clients. This may create a sense of familiarity and comfort between them and the clients. For succession to be successful, it requires a plan to be put in place to ensure effective integration of the new successor in order to obtain maximum client transferability.
Succession Planning does not have to be associated with negativity but rather a positive investment in both the clients and the business. The clients benefit through their assets being protected, and a continuation of suitable advice. The business benefits through the opportunity to sustain its legacy. One of the key elements of a successful Succession Plan is directly linked to trust. Clients trust their Financial Advisors to meet their needs and objectives despite challenges experienced by the business. By investing in a Succession Plan, the business is ultimately making the clients the centre and heart of the business, acting in their best interests.
Further to this, Succession Planning is also a form of acting in the employees’ best interest. Knowing that they will still be employed and executing the business’ Strategic Objective, despite turbulent times, can put your employees at ease. As a result, when planning for succession it is worthwhile to include your employees in this process, incorporating their various insights. Ultimately, demonstrating that Succession Planning can be viewed as a retention strategy for both clients and employees and financial security for the seller and their family.
2. Improving mental health
According to an article published on News24, SADAG received 600 calls a day relating to anxiety, stress and depression before lockdown. This increased to between 800 and 1200 per day during lockdown, showing the impact that the lockdown has had on the metal health of society.
Solution: We therefore encourage you to have regular check-ins with your employees to find out how they are doing and to thank them for the contributions while recognising their efforts in keeping the business profitable and sustainable. According to Business Health research, businesses who conducted a performance review within the last 12 months experienced a 169% profit increase. Regular communication with employees may ease the feeling of loneliness experienced when working remotely, as it makes them feel part of a team.
Promote a culture of work-life balance and an environment where employees can speak up if their workload is too much or if they are feeling stressed, depressed or fearful. There are many counselling solutions available, one of which is Lifeline South Africa. They are a national organisation that offers free telephone counselling, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, allowing callers to discuss a range of challenges from trauma and suicide to relationship issues (http://lifelinesa.co.za/).
According to a local survey by the Human Edge, conducted during the lockdown, 52% of respondents had increased their working hours. While working longer hours may increase productivity, this can also lead to quicker burnout if not managed. This research clearly shows that one of the more common challenges of remote working is switching off from work, we therefore urge you to encourage employees to find time to take part in activities to improve their mental wellbeing. These activities, mentioned in the survey findings by SADAG, can include: exercise; communicating with friends and family or sharing a meal with them; watching something on TV other than the news; getting involved in a home project or simple house chores.
As your business adapts you may identify additional concerns but also new strengths such as new client segments that can now be reached virtually but were previously unreachable. Think about what your new ‘business as usual’ has become and how this could still evolve by keeping your Strategic Objectives in mind when considering major changes to your business model. Where has your business excelled in these recent months and how can this be used to strengthen your position in the market? It may be useful for you and your employees to work together to equip your business so that it will be ready to exploit new and innovative opportunities. For example, making use of digital platforms such as a company website to improve the client experience or technologies to improve efficiencies. These actions could help to breathe new life into your business, by reinforcing the value it delivers to clients, especially now that the country has moved to Risk Level 2 lockdown and the economy has been given the opportunity to open up more. It reminds clients that your business has remained consistent in its promise to deliver value.
Work from Home Checklist – Practical tips for working remotely
To help you continue to operate efficiently while working remotely, we have summarised the practical tips we have discussed throughout this newsletter series so far and created a Work from Home Checklist.
The checklist considers 152 practical tips, and covers 13 business areas, so you can easily identify areas in your business where you can apply these tips.
To download the Work from Home checklist, click here.