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, 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 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.

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.

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.

Advisory firms also reported encountering various impediments to their work during the Covid-19 crisis, primarily having to do with paperwork and technology, SIFMA found.

Eighteen firms cite having to manually process mail, forms, checks and other documents; 11 cite medallion signature requirements; 13 cite notary public requirements; and 18 cite other physical signature requirements as hindering their work, according to the report.

Twelve firms reported that technology to enable working from home hindered their work during the crisis, and four firms cited regulatory constraints on work-from-home arrangements as an obstacle, SIFMA says.

Despite some challenges, firms have increased their use of technology and have expanded IT support to help advisors keep in touch with clients, the survey finds.

The emergence of the global pandemic Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2020 caused severe economic and capital markets shocks. Sharp price declines and spikes in equities markets resulted. Though markets remained open and functioning as intended, “investors across the board were anxious to understand the short and long-term impact on their finances and portfolios,” SIFMA said.

SIFMA’s Private Client Services Committee said they conducted the survey to assess how quickly the financial advisory industry activated near universal and immediate remote access necessary to allow work to continue.

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