Technology integrations for flexible working

Recent research by Intelliflo among over 200 advisers found that three in five (59%) have not yet returned to the office in any capacity and a quarter (25%) do not expect to go back before the end of the year. As a result of the pandemic, a quarter (26%) expect less office working in the next twelve months, while 13% anticipate fewer desks and more hot desking and 8% a reduction in office space. Working from home, at least some of the time, seems set to become much more prevalent among advice professionals.

Almost a third (30%) of advisers expect the future of the workplace will change the advice industry beyond recognition because of the Covid-19. Rather than a place to work, several see it becoming a central place to meet, either with colleagues (63%) or clients (55%). There are many positives to working from home. On a personal level, 18% of advisers feel working from home more often provides a better work / life balance, while from a business perspective, aside from the huge cost savings identified by 61% of respondents, many believe working more flexibly will encourage diversity (43%) and attract more young recruits to become advisers (36%).

For firms supporting flexible working, getting the tech right is crucial. Using manual workaround solutions because different systems don’t link together properly is hard enough when you’re in the office, trying to do the same when you are working from home can be nigh on impossible. Luckily, more than eight out of ten firms (84%) are already fully optimised for remote working, and a further 5% feel they soon will be.

So, if your firm is still working towards a more flexible workplace, what technology integrations should you prioritise?

First and foremost is the ability to complete processes including applications, transfers and trades, online. This may sound simple, but financial services has long been in love with paper and many providers still require hard copies and wet customer signatures for at least some of their processes. On a positive note, the pandemic and the difficulty of sending and receiving client post has forced some change in this area. Many providers have switched to electronic alternatives to paper and are accepting digital signatures or photographic evidence of physical signatures. Usage of Intelligent Office’s DocuSign functionality has increased by 366% in the four months to end of July, while new advisers using the Personal Finance Portal, where advisers and clients can exchange documents via a secure online hub, rose by 426% over the same period.

Another important capability when working remotely is to perform annual reviews or other client contact in a virtual format. This includes the ability to contact clients via text chat, audio or full video link to discuss and share documents such as portfolio valuations in a secure environment and to record conversations and files shared within the client record. Again, at Intelliflo we’ve seen an uplift in usage of this type of functionality, with co-browsing sessions through Glia increasing by 234% in the four months to end July.

The ability to operate across different devices is essential to support flexible working, when employees are sometimes in the office, sometimes at home and, hopefully at some point in the near future, sometimes on the road meeting clients. Being able to access systems via a desktop, laptop, tablet or even a phone is crucial if you are working out of multiple locations.

Cybersecurity should also be an important consideration to ensure that client and business data remains safe. Firms should make sure that all software is kept up to date across all work devices and that staff understand their own responsibility to protect data including recognising and reporting malicious emails. Using cloud-based services for data storage and backups can help ensure your data is secure, while remaining accessible from any location.

With half (47%) of advice professionals expecting to go back into the office part-time and work remotely part of the week, flexible working looks set to stay. By making the best use of today’s technology, advisers can reap the personal and business benefits of working remotely, while continuing to deliver value to their clients.

Written by Nick Eatock, Founder and CEO at Intelliflo.