The different advice firms during Covid-19…

Covid-19 means different things to different advisory firms.

I believe this pandemic has identified at least four different types of firms.

So far, at least.

First, there are the “plodders”.


These are ‘steady’ firms.

They didn’t qualify for JobKeeper as revenues didn’t drop the 30% needed.

These firms are finding Covid-19 ‘interesting’.

If the past three months are a guide, they are generally confident they will emerge better.

They are pleasantly surprised with the new options remote workspaces have provided. Their people may not be as well ‘connected’, and there may be more errors caused by remote working, but the teams are generally responding as the Hawthorne Effect predicted years ago.

With investments market only down a fraction of the 2008 falls, their clients, after much education about markets, are patient and cautious. Most have been prudently advised to amass solid cash reserves, and are currently content with their asset allocations.

Because their clients are not overly fearful, neither are the “Plodders”, who are patiently waiting and monitoring for signs of better days which will inevitably come.

Next are the “Diggers” – stuck in the trenches of substantial activity.


These firms are on the very front line of the financial pandemic, helping clients whose lives or businesses have been blown apart by Covid-19.

They were busy beforehand, now they are frantic, without any time – personally or professionally.

The frenzy the “Diggers” are experiencing is blatant – trying to provide the much-needed support or confidence or pathways for their clients whose lives have been scorched by the pandemic.

The financial lives of their clients have been hard hit. They come from the hospitality, retail, education, travel, entertainment, sports, health or tourism industries. Unprepared to new techniques of financial triage, their teams are not only stretched, but are trying to serve as they’ve never served before – remotely. As their clients have lost cashflows, it is harder and often unable to increase fees for increased work when the “Diggers” are stretched.

Like front-line medical teams, the “Diggers” turn up day after long day hoping for better days, which will come, but possibly too late for some clients and hopefully not for themselves.

Next is the “Paper-Shufflers“.


These firms have a heritage.

They usually have too many clients, either amassed by long years of service or acquired as ‘orphans’. Often licensed to an institutional license provider, they were struggling prior Covid-19 to manage the administrative paperwork workloads to meet the institution’s stringent new post-Hayne Royal Commission compliance guidelines.

Having lost business valuations with the removal of buy-back arrangements, they now face the prospect of losing on-going revenue if they miss the deadlines to ensure every client has a new compliant agreement.

The “Paper-Shufflers” haven’t had spare time for Covid-19 responses.

The majority of “Paper-Shufflers” entered the industry in what they thought was a ‘safe’ and logical career path to help more Australians lead better financial lives. They trusted large institutions licensees to ‘stand behind their advice’. Now they spend their days shuffling compliance paperwork to satisfy a broad risk management approach but designed for the most significant risk in the old distribution channels.

Covid-19 will go close to sapping much of the confidence from the “paper-shufflers”.

And then there are the “Innovators“.


These firms are not wasting this pandemic.

Covid-19 is motivating these firms to innovate quicker than in “good times”. They are engaging with clients differently. They are hiring talent from firms less agile, less resilient. They meet with clients not to reassure but to empower them for the post-pandemic and post-recession times. They are using these times when everyone’s circumstances, situations and outlooks have been affected to fundamentally re-examine as to what is now of value for each client.

They seem convinced the advisory opportunities post-pandemic will never be the same as pre-pandemic – which is just the environment needed to accelerate their brand of advice quicker.

However, being ‘innovation-oriented’ is not the same as being ‘client-oriented’.

If client experience and value is not the ultimate gauge of any advice development, “Innovators” will end up changing too much, too quickly as their team’s grapple to keep up with distracting and shallow new plans.

There are, no doubt, many different models of advisory firms.

What is clear is that 2020 has upended everyone’s circumstances and situations.

The impact of which will have long-lasting ramifications.

The need for advice to address new levels of uncertainty is assured.

These are the best of times to be building the future brand names of advice to address the need.

What do you reckon?



Photo Credit: Shutterstock_83989798


For over 30 years Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted to advisory firms across Australia. His firm, Certainty Advice Group specialises in building advice firms who charge flat fees for comprehensive, unconflicted advice. He is growing a community of advisory firms who align with Australia’s highest and only ACCC/IP Australia Certification Mark standard of comprehensive, unconflicted advice – Certainty Advice. He is also an author, blogger, and keynote speaker.

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