Covid-19 sent the U.S. economy spiraling into a recession—but it didn’t significantly dent RIA sentiment, according to a new survey.

RIAs have remained optimistic about the economy, financial markets and their businesses even as the pandemic has caused massive disruptions, according to TD Ameritrade’s 2020 RIA Sentiment Survey Mid-Year Update, released today.

Most advisors are also continuing to grow their practices, according to the survey: 40% have reported increases in AUM and revenue, with an average AUM increase of 8.4% and an average revenue increase of 8.45%.

Also, 58% of RIAs reported adding clients the first half of the year, with those who have added clients report having added 6% more clients on average.

Yet most RIAs, 66%, reported that they are not actively recruiting new advisors.

More than three-fifths of the surveyed RIAs, 61%, reported being back to work in the office. Another 9% said they would return after January 1 and 8% said they would return in September or November. But the future was more uncertain for the remaining 22% of the respondents: 8% said they weren’t returning to the office in the foreseeable future, 10% were unsure when they would return to the office and 4% reported having no plans to reopen their office.

Concern about a resurgence of Covid-19 was the leading reason named for preventing staff from returning to the office, named by 42% of the firms. Other reasons mentioned included staff safety and morale, named by 31% of firms; juggling family obligations, named by 28%; waiting for a vaccine, named by 22%; and a preference for their new quality of life, named by 18%.

As the pandemic broke out, 68% of advisors report increasing the frequency of their client communications, and 84% of those surveyed are conducting video conferences with their clients. More than two-thirds of the respondents, 67%, reported video conferencing with their clients at least once a week. As social distancing restrictions are lifted, 56% of the respondents expect to continue their use of virtual meeting and video chat tools.

Advisors reported using other technology-enabled tools to communicate with clients and enhance their practices. For example, 23% of advisors reported using secure texting with their clients. Of these, 81% were already using secure texting before the pandemic, and 19% started using secure texting during the pandemic. Nearly one in five advisors, 19%, were using personalized videos to reach out to clients; 68% started before the pandemic and 32% starting afterwards. Also, 18% of advisors reported using flash briefings to communicate with clients, with 56% before and 44% starting afterwards.

While only 5% of advisors reported using virtual reality-enabled tools, just 20% of those advisors had adopted those tools before Covid-19 and 80% had started using them since the onset of the pandemic.

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