Earlier this year, many businesses were forced to move to working remotely in response to the growing threat from the coronavirus pandemic. Overnight, entire industry segments had to reinvent their workflows. RIA firms were no exception. Most advisors focused their attention in three directions: 1) contacting clients, 2) deciding which tasks could be accomplished remotely and 3) assessing the capacity of their technical infrastructure.

Do You Have a Plan?

As we continue to contemplate lessons learned from the ongoing crisis, one of the more sobering realizations is that this is not likely to be the last such emergency we will face. RIA firms across the country are coming to grips with the fact that having a plan in place is essential to good business practice. The next crisis will probably take an entirely different form and produce a completely unique set of complications and challenges.

By examining the following areas, you can advance toward developing a new disaster recovery plan or refine your current emergency plan, which can help your firm survive and ultimately thrive despite a wide range of contingencies.

Management Continuity

Your plan should take into account how your firm would respond if you or a key associate were to be incapacitated by injury, illness or any unforeseeable event.

Questions to consider:

  • Would your associates and employees know what to do if you were suddenly out of the picture?
  • Do you have procedures for communicating with clients and assuring continuity of service if the worst were to happen?

A good plan should encompass delegation of authority accompanied by the necessary legal documentation. This includes a strategy that designates personnel to communicate with team members, clients and a list of any outside stakeholders, such as attorneys, insurance professionals and other vendors or service providers.

Infrastructure Contingencies

When an emergency occurs, a well-prepared plan serves as the map that provides direction to firm leaders and essential associates throughout the crisis. With Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype, the opportunity to collaborate with peers and clients has never been easier but there is more involved than merely setting up a Zoom account when considering the infrastructure required to keep your firm running without interruption.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you have a plan for one or more alternate work locations, such as the remote working arrangements instigated by the current pandemic?
  • How are your client data and management information systems backed up?
  • How would you access your information systems if you could not use your office computers?
  • How long can you operate remotely if that becomes necessary?
  • Do you have the necessary resources for your employees to work remotely?

Other critical items to include in this plan are:

  • Risk/vulnerability based on the firm’s geographic location
  • Training, testing, revisions and recordkeeping
  • Critical vendor contact information
  • Employee contact information

Securing Crucial Information

Cybersecurity training is not only useful in the office but transferable to a remote work environment as well. Associates should be aware of cyber vulnerabilities regardless of their work location.

Questions to consider:

  • What steps are in place for securing client and other sensitive information?
  • If you had to vacate the premises in an emergency, is there a single container or thumb drive with essential documents and data that you can easily take with you on your way out?
  • Are you able to access important passwords and contact information, installation software, insurance policies, asset inventories and other vital information remotely?

Anticipate the Unexpected

Just as you advise your clients to make sure their family members know what to do and who to call in case of emergency, your firm needs a disaster recovery plan to guide firm leaders and associates.

By thinking through the many questions provided in this article, you can help your firm develop a strategy for negotiating everything from the unprecedented to the unthinkable based on the specifics of your company and your clients.

We help advisors establish and grow successful wealth management practices. To learn more about how we can help you amplify your life’s work, contact us at team@waalliance.com. You can follow us on Twitter@theWAAlliance and on LinkedIn.

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