Article October 6, 2020

Covid-19 outside urban centres: stories from advisors

While there have been fewer COVID-19 infections outside of large urban centres, advisors working in less densely populated regions have had a very similar experience of the pandemic compared to their urban counterparts. Here are some of their stories.

In Saint-Ferdinand, a small community in the region of Centre-du-Québec, the number of COVID-19 infections can be counted on one hand. “Until very recently, there was only one person! There wasn't really a sense of fear or worry in the community,” recalls Chantale Vigneault, a financial security advisor and mutual fund representative at Chantale Vigneault Inc.

Chantale continued going to her office, where she worked alone while her assistant worked from home. “I haven’t had any in-person meetings with clients. Instead we talk over the phone or on FaceTime, and signatures are done electronically. We’re a small and tight-knit village so identifying clients was easy” she says.

While she’s only had to face minor challenges, Chantale Vigneault admits the lockdown forced her to pause and reflect. “During the first two weeks, our business slowed down. That was when we realized how fast-paced everything had always been before. So we took the opportunity to adopt more efficient and uniform working methods, like client follow-up calendars and tables of active insurance policies,” she explains.

Rapidly switching to a remote workplace

Myriam Oakes, a financial security advisor and partner at Stratégica Services Financiers in Victoriaville, says her office quickly switched to remote work when the pandemic hit. “The team has now returned to the office and we’re following health measures. Nonetheless, the pandemic has accelerated the implementation of remote work and the use of online platforms and videoconferencing. Even our clients request it, since it saves them from having to travel,” she explains.

Meanwhile, Annick Tanguay, a mutual fund representative at Caisse Desjardins de Port-Cartier, says her clientele of mostly retirees is less comfortable using technology. “As a result, most of the communication was by telephone. But I’d still take the time at the start of each conversation to ask them what’s new and how they’re coping with the lockdown. It was difficult for some of them,” she recalls. Since the majority of her clients had no computer or Internet connection, Annick would send them documents by mail before contacting them by telephone.

Like her colleagues, Annick Tanguay says the pandemic helped her business adopt new tools. “For example, we used videoconferencing for team meetings. We quickly adapted to virtual methods and I believe that they’re here to stay. They’re useful and practical and they allow you to always keep in touch,” she explains.

Reinventing practices

Daniel Charbonneau, a mutual fund representative and financial security advisor at Assante Wealth Management in Trois-Rivières, also had to find solutions for his clientele of older individuals who are not very familiar with new technologies. “We’d leave documents in their garage or send them pages to sign by mail. Videoconferencing wasn’t a realistic option for them,” he recalls.

Daniel Charbonneau says he would typically follow up with clients in person every three or six months. Naturally, the pandemic changed everything. Unfortunately, following up with a client over the phone doesn’t replace human contact and many clients missed their advisor's regular visits.

“We’ve resumed face-to-face meetings, but only for clients who need us to be there in person, and in compliance with health measures,” explains Daniel Charbonneau.

He adds that the pandemic has had a silver lining in accelerating the adoption of digital technologies and e-signatures. “That was already on our radar, but we were forced to implement it rapidly. It’s also a good opportunity to update our practices. For instance, since we can’t approach business development the way we used to anymore, we’re forced to reinvent ourselves and find new methods. For example, we follow up over the phone and send out courtesy letters,” Daniel Charbonneau says. It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed lives and forced many to adopt new habits.

Visit the InfoCOVID-19 section on the CSF’s website for more information.