Strategies for a virtual practice and working remotely should ideally involve careful planning and consideration, but the Covid-19 outbreak has forced many advisors to quickly shift to working online so that they can continue to serve clients while the economy is shut down, said consultants on a Wednesday webcast sponsored by TD Ameritrade Institutional.

Ideally, an advisor would be able to consider whether they had adequately prepared their associates, their clients and their businesses for working remotely, said Craig Cintron, senior manager, institutional technology consulting, TD Ameritrade Institutional, during the webcast entitled “Moving Client Engagement Virtual.”

“Rolling out a virtual strategy will effect change on your business, associates and clients,” Cintron said. “By leaning into the right technology and strategy, you can minimize the impact to your business and gain efficiencies along the way.”

The key is to embrace the change, said Cintron, and to adapt to the new environment. Even after the outbreak subsides, clients and associates are likely to be more receptive to virtual meetings and video messaging from advisors.

Better client experience begins with improving the associates’ experience, said Cintron.

“Your client experience is shaped by the environment: If you take care of your associates, they will take care of your clients,” he said. “No one asked for a global health pandemic, or to school their kids while working from home. You might be having that experience, and if you aren’t, you might have clients and associates who are. There is no playbook for doing this.”

But even remotely, business leaders can foster a positive culture among employees. They should seek out new ways to collaborate remotely, said Cintron.

For example, an online virtual watercooler meeting—basically a video chat with no set agenda—can help advisors preserve the collegiality and collaboration that existed in the physical office. Cintron says that his team at TD Ameritrade added a weekly virtual watercooler meeting in addition to their regularly scheduled weekly video meeting.

“As a leader, having virtual office hours and enabling anyone to drop in to your virtual WebEx can help you keep your open-door policy in the office,” said Cintron. “Our team has been virtual for years, but what’s interesting is that we’ve all grown closer over the past five to six weeks.”

Another idea Cintron has embraced is a “virtual happy hour” or cocktail hour once or twice a month, and “wisdom Wednesdays” in which team members share podcasts and other media they have encountered to help enrich one another.

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