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Tales From The Frontline – I love my new beard!

In this Tales From The Frontline blog our Advising Partner Donald Murray give us his thoughts on dealing with the Coronavirus lockdown and how being a Sandringham Partner has made it quite a different experience than he thought it would be.

I became a financial adviser 35 years ago. The best bit of the job always was time spent face to face with clients. I spent a long time away from a client facing role and in 2013 voluntary redundancy gave me the opportunity to leave management behind and get back to the bit I loved most – helping clients.

I hate the phone. I’d rather drive an hour and back to meet you and explain something face to face than speak to you on the phone, so the prospect of an indefinite lockdown was not something I was looking forward to. Yes, it gave me a chance to tidy the desk and catch up on some outstanding tasks, but I still want to keep working through this, and I want to see clients face to face. So, for the first time in 5 years I logged into Skype, set up Facetime on my iPad and got my 23 year old daughter to explain to me how to use that, and WhatsApp video. And I let the clients I had in the pipeline for anything know that I was open for business virtually. And it has been a revelation.

In the last week and a half I’ve held 12 ‘virtual’ face to face meetings with clients. I’m sat here in my home with my coffee in my Starbucks reusable cup, and they are at their end with their brew of choice and it’s almost as good as being in their sitting room.

In that mix I’ve finalised 3 pieces of new business, dealt with the factfinding for 3 other new pieces of business, conducted 3 reviews and had several handholding meetings where I’ve helped clients avoid making knee jerk reactions to investment falls. I’ve also had 3 calls with clients where I’ve discussed the merits of them not doing anything now, because their employment or their businesses are precarious as a result of Covid, so I’d feel terrible if I’d let them invest money now that they might need to keep body and soul together until this crisis passes.

When I got the email asking which of my reviews I wanted to defer the answer was none. Well, one actually but he’s an 80 year old man with no technology to speak of, in a remote part of the Highlands of Scotland where I live and work, and I want to spend time with him face to face when this is over. I get the best coffee and chocolates from him, so I’m not passing that up. As soon as the lockdown is removed I want to be out there dealing with new enquiries, and not have my diary tied up with a backlog of reviews that I could have done virtually instead.

I expected to be sat here in a funk about the fact that I can’t do the job I love. What I’ve actually found is that my willingness to work differently has been met by a willingness on the part of my clients to work differently. It has made me evaluate whether I have let myself be a busy fool. There is no doubt that some of what I’m doing now could always have been done this way, so I envisage that even once we are out of this there will be some stuff I’ll do virtually, and that might just free up time to be better organised and get more value out of the stuff that I’ll still want to do face to face.

I’ve been in touch with some of my professional connections, who are all also working from home, and have told them I’m very much open for business. For those with surplus cash they’ll not need there’s not been a better time to stick money in pensions and ISAs in the last 10 years or so. For those with pensions that I’ve not had a chance to deal with they may need to consider drawdown to release funds to pay bills or keep businesses afloat. If I can offer a virtual solution then that might just be what gives me an edge.

At Sandringham we have systems and processes that can help facilitate that. I’m starting an exercise next week to get every client on to Wealth Platform so they can see their values, and not be concerned about being in the dark. I’m touching base with every investment or pension client and offering them a virtual coffee chat if they want it, firstly to help maintain that contact, and also to help them pass the time. The majority probably won’t want to, but the ones that do will be those that need it the most. I remember an old manager once saying to me ‘trust is what we build after the sale’. I aim to come out of this better connected with my clients, viewed as a trusted ally in a time of crisis and keep business as usual in terms of new income and reviews.

And of course I’ll be better rested, less wear and tear on the car, and I’m loving my new beard! Stay safe people.

Donald Murray – Advising Partner

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