Broker-dealers and advisors have maintained frequent communication with clients and have adjusted well to working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) an industry trade group.

Despite the challenges of letting employees work from home, a practice most financial advice firms have had to adopt during the coronavirus pandemic, the overwhelming majority of advisors stayed in consistent touch with their clients via a variety of methods, the survey found.

Some 31 firms with 100,000 advisors reported that their advisors and customer service associates are working from home, and most often communicate with clients using e-mail and social media—sending market overviews, portfolio reviews and advice and holistic questions about health and well-being, according to the survey.

"Now more than ever, clients are looking for real conversations about their goals and the things they’re worried about," said Evamarie Schoenborn, president and CEO of Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company.

Clients “need to get that sense of ‘true north’ from an advisor, which advisors can provide by being good communicators,” she said. “That means staying focused on the client’s goals, feelings and insecurities and being transparent, authentic and visible throughout this challenging time.”

SIFMA found that 25 of 31 firms reported 75% to 100% of their advisors and client service associates were working from home. Firms responded to the challenge of the new work-at-home arrangement by offering their staff real-time IT support, hardware, remote desktop access or enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity, or a combination thereof, SIFMA says.

As a result, most firms communicated with their clients on multiple occasions and at least weekly, according to the report. All 31 firms surveyed had financial advisors contact clients directly, while 27 of the firms also had their CEO or the head of the private client group communicate directly to clients, SIFMA found.

E-mail and social media were the primary methods of communication, which often included recorded video communications or podcasts, according to the report. 

“Financial advisors play an important role in serving clients’ financial needs, but they also perform a critical service in helping investors navigate complex and challenging financial markets. This is really magnified during times of extreme volatility like we’ve been through in the last 90 days,” said Ken Cella, who leads Edward Jones’s Client Strategies Group.

In addition to market and personal reviews provided by advisors, advice firms also provided clients with information related to the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act; their banking needs; the pandemic response; the use of technology; and the historical context of the pandemic, according to the report. 

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