“Necessity may well be called the mother of invention, but calamity is the test of integrity.”
– Samuel Richardson
The human age dots its decades and centuries with history, stories of triumph and failure, as well as natural and manmade calamities that redefine the age beyond them. We are living in one of those periods of time. Life before was one way. Life after will be another.
Healthcare systems, employment and work, government’s role, the importance of community, social awareness, finance, risk, education, business operations, travel, relationships, generosity, priorities, purpose. These will change.
The financial lives of American families and the role of institutions and the advisors who serve them will change as well.
Who do I turn to in a moment of great uncertainty? This is a question of trust. American households thrust into lockdown, separated from normal lives, dealing with a health crisis that threatened their families’ well-being, and also their livelihoods. Mortality becomes a more important conversation. The practical and emotional punishment of jobs lost. Businesses closed. Lives suddenly at the whim of forces outside their control. Masks, gloves, six feet of separation are measures based on managing risk and, for now, social distrust. Alarming numbers of cases, and heartfelt stories hitting closer to home. Anxiety. Mixed daily messages, incessant politics, media. Uncertainty. All of these fused into an American psyche that is thinking of risk differently and seeking answers from sources it can trust.
The post-pandemic world will find a skeptical America. Yet, post pandemic will also spark organization to find new ways to address this anxiety, fill the cracks that have been glaringly exposed and accelerate a new model of digital engagement that will have a meaningful role in how people manage their lives. Someone said to me last week that five years of digital transformation has been condensed into five weeks. Ultimately, there will be a new service model that emerges and the industry will need to adapt quickly to make sure it is empowering this shift, rather than being disrupted by those who get there before.
Who do I turn to in a moment of great uncertainty? This is the question we all have the responsibility to answer. At Envestnet, we sit at the nexus of financial services, partnering with nearly every type of financial institution, and serving more than 100,000 financial advisors who work with millions of clients, and over 20 million consumers who use our data every day. Our interconnection gives us a unique perspective on the industry, and how we move forward at this critical turning point.
A New Level of Trust and Relevance Are the Currency of Valued Engagement
Trust is created by understanding and providing helpful and sensible solutions. In this next age, the integration of real-time aggregated data will equip us all to better understand a family’s goals, needs and challenges as they arise. The intelligent use of this data creates an environment where recommendations are automatically generated – and answers the question, “What should I do?” before the question is even asked. Have they recently lost a job? Are they having trouble paying their bills? Understanding their needs and pain points – and being ready with a proactive solution – will forge the essential nature of the advisor-client relationship.
Redefining What It Means to Be Prepared
The pandemic has upended the standard for preparedness. All seemed fine, and then, very quickly, it wasn’t. Most families are asking “What if?” when it comes to their finances. What if the market crashes, what if I lose my job, what if we can’t retire? Do I have a safety net? Do I know where all my important documents are? Is my will current? How do I think about legacy? These questions highlight that many consumers have delayed their decisions to put financial plans in place long enough.
Digital Becomes More “Human”
Expert advisor plus digital platform is the only competitive engagement model going forward. Digital engagements will need to have the same “fidelity” as in- person meetings. Online information is helpful, but the ability to receive, seek and find personally relevant answers any time and from anywhere will become essential.
The Fusion of Health and Wealth
Fear of the unknown has led to an increased focus on well-being and self-care that marries health and wealth. The answer to the question, “Will I be okay?” will have to encompass physical, emotional and financial wellness.
The threat of coronavirus has occupied many Americans’ thinking about their own mortality. Questions around estate planning, elder care and living wills are beginning to surface. Expert networks – including attorneys, CPAs, life insurance professionals and others – will be critical to meeting consumers’ healthcare questions.
Family and Communities Lead the Way Forward
While the pandemic is an individual experience, it is one we have all been living together. The renewed focus on family and community will be a key driver for many businesses. Expanded services to support and engage the broader family, including children, parents and non-traditional family structures, vs. serving the individual alone, will be critical. Having a business strategy that supports the local community in times of crisis is the strongest brand attribute a company can have. Be ready. Begin the work. Offer support with educational and digital tools that help the community in times of uncertainty.
Creating a New Playbook for a Sustainable Business
Larger businesses, forced to enable work-from-home setups, have seen the strategic benefits of doing so. Smaller businesses faced more challenges, however, as they were accustomed to working in centralized locations with face-to-face interaction. Many did not have business continuity plans or the secure technology that allowed them to pivot quickly to remote environments.
The office of the future will look different. Faced with economic uncertainty, businesses will find new ways to drive efficiencies and do more with less. Secure, streamlined technology will be foundational, and many businesses will begin to rely on a broader network of external partners to succeed.
These months have demonstrated the incredible adaptability of people. Our resilience. We left our offices and started to work from home — and somehow, the world went on. There are lessons in it. There are lessons in the uncertainty. There are lessons in the silent and lurking nature at the root of the crisis. New lessons are unfolding every day. Post pandemic, the world will be changed. In the shadow of uncertainty, I believe it will be our adaptability and resilience that will prevail.
“Tis not too late to seek a newer world. Push off.”
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson
In pivotal moments, I often turn to words and particularly to the poem “Ulysses,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Go, seek, and solve. Relevant and powerful words for us today.
As we deliver, as we address these critical needs for all American families, we have the immense opportunity to put to rest the anxiety, and more importantly, we have the capacity to answer the critical questions that families have. Our industry has the ability to change the lives of millions of Americans for the better.
This is our industry’s time to lead.
The information, analysis, and opinions expressed herein are for general information only. Nothing contained in this document is intended to constitute legal, tax, securities, or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment, nor a solicitation of any type. Investing carries certain risks and there is no assurance that investing in accordance with the portfolios mentioned will provide positive performance over any period of time. Investors could lose money if they invest in accordance with the portfolios discussed herein. Past performance is not indicative of future results.
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