Author: James J. Spinelli

Designing the Post-COVID-19 Workplace: Essential Considerations for RIAs Ready to Return to the Office

The coronavirus pandemic prompted a sudden and widespread shift to a remote workforce, and groups that traditionally conducted all business in person had to quickly adjust to a new virtual environment. Financial advisors rose to the occasion and maintained normal business practices amid the changes.

As the pandemic took hold in the spring, Arizent, the parent company of financial services publications like Financial Planning, surveyed 300 financial services professionals about the shift to digital, and many reported greater use of technology. Two-thirds of respondents were increasing use of video conferencing tools to communicate with clients and nearly 75% indicated their firms were investing more in technology to support the remote team.

While advisors were generally able to adjust to the digital workspace, many are eager to return to the office and resume in-person meetings with clients and colleagues, and many firms are well underway in creating plans to bring staff back. A May 2020 CNBC survey of its Global CFO Council found the vast majority (75%) of its North American members were working remotely at the time but expected a shift back to offices by September. Thirty-four percent of respondents noted less than a quarter of the workforce would be remote come fall.

However, as threats of the coronavirus still loom, returning to the office is a complicated — and potentially costly — task, with expectations of cleanliness and safety higher than ever before. There are steps you can take to protect your team — whether you lead a group of three or 30 — and safely bring them back to the office. Here are some tips:

  1. Assess your current office setup. Before bringing any staff into the building, it’s important to assess the current facilities and equipment and identify potential hazards. The open office setup that previously facilitated collaboration and team bonding now presents a health risk, and the shared coffee pot where you discussed the latest Wall Street news has likely become a bygone of the pre-coronavirus era. Consider adding plexiglass dividers and removing previously shared kitchen items to make the office safer.
  1. Determine who will come back and when. It’s not feasible or safe to bring your entire staff back at one time. Who returns and when will be unique to your firm and your team’s specific circumstances. In many cases, testing protocols with firm leadership is a smart place to start. A mid-April Deloitte survey of financial services institutions found that return-to-work plans would largely be based on job functions (64%) and/or geography (60%) or a combination of these two factors.
  1. Establish new office rules and be clear in relaying them to your team. Follow CDC and local guidelines when designing your office regulations, particularly when it comes to mask wearing, hand washing, temperature checks (including frequency and temperature thresholds) and other sanitation measures. There should also be strict requirements related to how team members report possible exposures and self-quarantine periods. Establishing these rules and ensuring everyone is on the same page will allow for much easier enforcement. The CDC has dedicated an entire section of its site to recommendations, tips and guidelines for businesses that can help guide your plan.
  1. Designate one room for meetings and clean it often. Frequent and thorough cleanings will be essential to keeping your team safe, especially in high-traffic areas. Designating a single space — ideally one of your larger conference rooms — for collaboration will make this process a bit easier.
  1. Provide cleaning supplies, sanitizer and personal protective equipment. Be sure to have masks on hand for yourself, your team members and any office visitors. These, as well as plenty of hand sanitizer and surface-sanitizing wipes and sprays, should be placed in prominent locations and vigilantly used by all personnel.

Bringing your team into the office is an important first step toward eventually welcoming clients back to the office. While in-home meetings are discouraged at present, there are some clients who will be eager to meet face-to-face with their team, and these in-person meetings will be necessary in some cases. There are several special considerations when bringing outside visitors into the office:

  1. Ensure client appointments are scheduled in advance and limited to a set amount of time. Clients must be discouraged from stopping in unannounced. When they are scheduled to come in, meetings should have a set duration to mitigate overall risk. Further, clients should not bring anyone else with them.
  1. Encourage social distancing. Whenever possible, work to maintain social distancing standards by meeting in a larger space — or better yet, outside. Encourage all visitors to wear masks during the meeting.
  1. Alert other office mates of visitors. Whenever someone is on the premises, it’s important to alert all other team members at the office — especially if you are in a shared space.
  1. Inform your client of office protocols in advance of the meeting. Share the firmwide rules and regulations and be clear on your expectations for their cooperation. Greet clients outside and bring them directly to the meeting space to begin promptly.
  1. Clean up immediately. Following the meeting, ensure the meeting space is thoroughly cleaned, with all hard surfaces, door knobs and chairs wiped down with a CDC-approved disinfectant.

For most financial advisors, operating in an entirely remote scenario isn’t feasible over the long term. As businesses adjust to the new normal, establishing rules and following protocols are essential to maintaining a safe environment for all.

For more insights from the GVA team, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The opinions expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of LPL Financial.

GVA Annual Compliance Conference date set!

Join GVA in Nashville, October 27-29, 2019, as we celebrate 5 years!

At GVA, our annual compliance conference creates an experience for our advisors, program managers, sponsors, and home office to connect, learn, and grow together. Enjoy a strong itinerary with industry leaders and plenty of networking opportunities.

If you are interested in joining, or learning more about GVA, please contact Henry Buttz, hbuttz@greatvalleyadvisors.com.

LPL Financial Eliminates the Hybrid RIA Minimum Asset Requirement

Earlier in the year LPL Financial had a minimum asset requirement of $50M to join any Hybrid firm at LPL, including Great Valley Advisor Group. Say Goodbye! As of October 22, 2018 LPL is eliminating the minimum advisory asset requirement based on data suggesting it was not effectively contributing to growth. For more information regarding this strategic change, please visit the URL below.

https://lplfinancial.lpl.com/news-media/newsroom/lpl-stories/lpl-financial-strategic-enhancements-include-elimination-of-the-hybrid-ria-minimum-asset-requirement.html

GVA Launches a Proprietary Salesforce Risk Questionnaire

GVA advisors may now send risk questionnaires directly to their clients from within their Salesforce account. This new technology allows the advisor to gather important risk information through an online questionnaire taken by the client. Once the client completes their risk questionnaire, a record is created in Salesforce, and the appropriate risk score populates on their profile.

Want to send questionnaires weekly, quarterly, annually? No problem! The frequency is up to you, as each response will create a new record under the client, and save any of the old responses within the system. You may either send the questionnaire directly to the client, or complete while in the office during a meeting.

Earlier this year GVA introduced their fact finder for initial account opening. A quick secure link which helps the advisor gather important client information for opening up accounts in good order. We have integrated both to ensure your client opens their account and gathers a risk score right from the start, leaving the meeting to talk about their accounts and not paperwork.

Want to learn more? Contact GVA today to get started!

GVA Partners with Cipperman Compliance Services

Great Valley Advisor Group announces partnership with Cipperman Compliance Services

Great Valley Advisor Group, headquartered in Wilmington, DE is proud to announce that after a rigorous due diligence process we have selected Cipperman Compliance Services (CCS), located in Wayne, PA to provide compliance support to the firm. CCS is a nationally recognized industry leader that provides outsourced compliance services to the investment management community. With 80-plus relationships, CCS qualified professionals have the knowhow to protect the firms’ reputation and meet the demands of the regulators.

“Compliance is a top priority for us at Great Valley Advisor Group” said James Spinelli, COO, Managing Director. “We selected Cipperman because of their proven experience in the investment industry – delivering customized materials and testing capabilities. According to Todd Cipperman, Principal at CCS “Compliance is all we do. We have no distractions. Our high-touch engagement combined with the teams in depth regulatory analysis delivers confidence, independence and accountability.”

About Great Valley Advisor Group (GVA)

Great Valley Advisor Group delivers support and confidence to independent advisors through a customized RIA platform. Offering a plug and play structure provides the new advisor with access to a customized CRM system, customized document management tool, compensation software, as well as additional tools right at their fingertips. Our dedicated support team focuses on providing the best possible service to each advisor, hosting monthly & quarterly update calls, as well as making sure they get the right answer for their clients.

For more information about Great Valley Advisor Group call 302-483-7200 or visit our website www.greatvalleyadvisors.com

GVA Annual Compliance Conference – Oct. 11 – 13, 2017

For the past two years we have had great success with our compliance conference in Philadelphia. However, we feel it’s time for a change, and will host this years event October 11 – 13, 2017 at LPL Financial’s new headquarters in Fort Mill, SC!

We will send out more information in the coming months, but make sure to mark your calendars.

Here’s what you can expect

For qualifying advisors, this years trip will include:

• Complimentary hotel reservations for two nights at the Fort Mill Courtyard Marriott
• Complimentary round trip airline tickets (Charlotte, NC)
• A strong itinerary with industry leaders and networking opportunities

Additional information to follow!

Compliance Call – Thursday 6/8/17 @ 1PM EST

GVA will host a quarterly compliance call for their advisors to discuss updates regarding the following topics:

Employer Sponsored ERISA Plans
3(21) vs. 3(38) fiduciary
Participant education

Consulting Services
Financial planning for plan participants
Ongoing fee for service: defining the ongoing service

Some DOL considerations for LPL
Standardized Compensation: LPL is working toward level compensation within each product category offered
Direct business: policy change delayed until January 1, 2018
‘Department of Labor’ tab in the Resource Center for more information

OCIE Share Class Initiative
Selecting share classes in advisory accounts
GVA expectations for advisors using higher fee shares

Client Engagement Agreement
Additions to the CEA are underway
What you should be able to demonstrate for each advisory account:
• Specific objectives
• Investment Strategy
• Rebalancing procedures
• Monitoring of performance (including the use of benchmarks)

Client Communications
– Annual client meeting requirement
– Meeting notes

For more information, or to sign up, please contact Cheryl deRosa, cderosa@greatvalleyadvisors.com.

Advisor Appreciation Event

Great Valley Advisor Group (GVA) will hold an Advisor Appreciation Event on May 10th for a business person special at Citizens Bank Park to watch the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Seattle Mariners. This is a 1:05 PM game, and is open to all advisors of GVA to join. The suite opens an hour before game time for those who will get down early.

Register today!