A butterfly emerging from a cocoon

Adapting, Surviving, and Thriving

by Adrian Murphy

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.

Often misattributed to Charles Darwin, the statement rings true. Failure to adapt to a changing environment puts our survival at risk.

For financial planners, survival means evolving business practices and changing client engagement methods. It is crucial for us to be adaptable, whether coping with short term, unpredictable changes or those we forecast to occur in the future.

The current pandemic has proved a stern test to firms’ ability to react to unforeseen risks. Because of social distancing measures, virtual client meetings have been the only viable option. I’d guess firms using the necessary tech (Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc) pre-COVID were better prepared and consequently less disrupted. And some firms, like mine, have increased their efficiency and productivity from this grand (albeit forced) experiment.

We didn’t know how powerful a communication tool Teams was until we had to use it. But it’s been a revelation. I’m sure that’s the case with many systems and tools advisers use too. We’re probably only scratching the surface of the technology capability at our fingertips. The time and money Teams has saved us is substantial. We’ve consequently reassessed our internal and external communications preferences and are rethinking whether physical travel to client meetings is worth it. We’ve put the time we’ve saved into business planning and our growth strategy.

Evolvement Of Roles

The role of an adviser is in constant evolution – in the most part for the better, I’d argue. Developments in recent years have seen more and more planners broaden their roles to really get to the core of what makes a client tick and what prevents them taking control of their lives. Merely picking a product, adjusting a portfolio and checking in with a client occasionally, is the financial advice model of yesteryear. These aspects are clearly still important, but they aren’t the parts of our service that our clients get the most value from. It’s the softer behavioural stuff like carefully tailoring a plan that takes into account a client’s hopes and fears, and then providing ongoing close and continuous support to keep those plans on track that are the most important service we can provide as a profession.

Evolvement Of Principles

Of equal importance is the need for advice professionals (whether you call yourself an adviser, a planner, a wealth manager or something else entirely matters not a jot) to properly understand themselves, too. Firms that know and operate by their core values and principles can offer customers a more authentic and human experience.

For example, on our principles, we strongly believe everything we do should be based on evidence that it has worked before and will likely work again. We have no particular beef with active management or advocates of that investment approach. However for us, we’ve found no compelling evidence to prove paying additional fees will result in greater investment performance.

Advisers would be doing their clients a disservice by performing their job to the same standard as they were a decade ago. The bar has been raised in part by regulation, but also by the profession’s inherent drive to do a better job for its customers. Whether due to COVID, Pension Freedoms, or better understanding of how to meet client needs, I believe those who are able and willing to adapt are the most likely to be around in years to come.

Adrian Murphy headshot
Courtesy of Adrian Murphy

Adrian Murphy is CEO of Murphy Wealth and a Financial Life Planner. Adrian was awarded Financial Adviser of the Year in the 2019 Growth Investor Awards and has been increasingly acknowledged for his bold vision of making an impact in the industry and community. The firm is taking life planning and behavioural insights and developing a unique proposition with the client truly at its heart.

The views expressed in this article are that of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Voyant.