Accounting, Financial Planning

Advice services need post-COVID-19 focus

post-COVID-19 advice

The COVID-19 downturn has demonstrated the value of professional advice, but practitioners should be preparing for clients’ post-lockdown needs.

Financial planners and accountants should begin to position their businesses for the post-COVID-19 advice landscape by focusing on the main areas where clients will need their expertise and preparing staff and systems to meet that demand.

Australian Wealth Solutions principal and Institute of Public Accountants Victorian president Sam Zervides said while planners and accountants may have already received a high level of inquiries about government relief measures related to COVID-19, a second wave of questions would arrive later in the year.

“The clock is ticking to a looming deluge of inquiries from concerned clients when the various government stimulus packages and goodwill of financial institutions, utilities, et cetera end in September,” Zervides said.

“Not only do accountants and planners need to prepare for this eventuality, they must do so while simultaneously future-proofing their businesses to stay relevant beyond the after-effects of the virus.”

He said the gradual return to pre-lockdown conditions meant advice practitioners should be re-evaluating what was important to clients, where they offered value and how it could be delivered more efficiently and effectively.

“Time should be used to shape advisory practices by cementing the client at the centre of the universe and then integrating the appropriate technology and workflows, including upskilling key personnel and staff,” he said.

“Establishing or reaffirming strategic alliances and partnerships will also be crucial with benefits for clients via more comprehensive service offerings.”

He noted planners and accountants had been reaffirmed in their role as trusted advisers when large number of clients sought advice at the start of the pandemic and lockdown as share and property markets declined and businesses were forced to close.

“Not only were accountants and planners required to respond to an avalanche of inquiries from fear-stricken clients, they had to also interpret and articulate government economic stimulus programs while simultaneously restructuring their businesses to operate remotely under strict health and safety guidelines,” he said.

While technology enabled advisory businesses to assist clients, “by far the greatest attributes were the past experiences of practice principals and staying positive and focused on providing comfort and reassurance to clients and staff”, he noted.

He also highlighted the 2020 downturn was not the first for many accountants and planners and that every downturn was followed by growth and new opportunities.

“The coronavirus pandemic demonstrated once again that accountants and planners have a unique marketplace advantage as the trusted advisers that clients turn to in times of stress,” he said.

“Hence the urgent need for advice practitioners to act now and ensure their houses are in order and ready for the future by building on this position in the hearts and minds of their clients.”

Compliance measures related to advice provided on early access to superannuation were temporarily lowered for registered financial planners and accountants in April when ASIC announced accountants would not require a licence to provide advice and planners would only be required to present a Record of Advice.

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