While the COVID-19 pandemic brought its share of hardship, it also resulted in some unexpected positives. Some are obvious: Because driving and flying was so sharply curtailed last spring, air pollution dramatically declined. Others were more surprising, as our just-released FlexShares Advisory Wellness Study reveals.
The survey found that for much of 2020 advisors saw increasing demand for their services. A majority of advisors polled, 57% added new clients between March and October 2020. And about 62% cited an increase in assets under management in that same time frame versus 31% citing no meaningful change and 7% of advisors reporting their client assets declined.
- Specific pandemic-related stresses were relatively mild
- Number of clients and AUM increased in 2020
- Advisors found more time for themselves and for family
It should be noted that the segment of the U.S. population served by financial advisors is not representative of the nation as a whole. The advisory client base, which tends to be more educated and more affluent than the population at large, was less affected by job layoffs and other economic hardships endured by many others. As a result of the relative absence of short-term income worries, the nation’s more affluent individuals and households were apt to focus on reaching their long-term financial goals by seeking professional help when markets suddenly became more uncertain.
Other unexpected and positive outcomes for advisors came as a result of the workplace changes that the pandemic caused—especially working outside the normal office environment. With working from home becoming commonplace, many advisors found that the time they previously spent commuting was available for other pursuits. An overwhelming 51% of advisors said the most positive outcome of the pandemic was the ability to spend more time with family; 36% said it gave them time for personal pursuits; and 32% said the pandemic resulted in a better work-life balance. Significantly, 29% said the pandemic led to them improving their relationship with their spouse and 23% said it improved relationships with their children.
Having more time available led 46% of the advisors polled to say that the opportunity to rethink their business model and role was a positive. And in a business where personal contact and communication are so vital, 39% of advisors said the pandemic gave them a guilt-free reason not to see people.
Having more time available led 46% of the advisors polled to say that the opportunity to rethink their business model and role was a positive.
While advisors reported a wide range of stresses related to the pandemic, they were generally not significant. Among the most problematic effects—and even these were only ranked between somewhat stressful and stressful—were isolation from family, friends and colleagues; prospecting under social distancing rules; and managing client fears about their investments and long-term goals. Pandemic-related stress, therefore, was not much different in degree or kind from the stresses that advisors experienced in the past.
Because the virus has been so widespread, many financial advisors and members of their teams have experienced its pain firsthand. But even amid the sadness and loss, many advisors find good reason to feel grateful to be among the fortunate.