The pandemic of 2020 has made wearing masks in social situations customary. Restaurants, airplanes, grocery stores, and most public buildings require that a mask is worn. In restaurants you are allowed to de-mask when eating or drinking. But what about personal meetings when you are discussing important issues with an individual you trust? Do investors want their advisors to wear a mask during their face-to-face meetings? Do they even want to have a face-to-face meetings?
Spectrem Group recently asked investors how often they would like to meet with their financial advisor. Just over a quarter (26%) indicated they would like to meet with their advisor “as needed” while the largest percentage (37%) indicated they would like to meet with their advisors quarterly. While this research is consistent with prior research completed by Spectrem, the real question is how and where do investors want to meet with their advisor post-pandemic? More than half (54%) of investors want to meet with their advisor in his/her office but 32% want to meet only virtually with their advisor. Those whose political affiliation is Democratic are more likely than others to want to only meet virtually. A small percentage (12%) want to meet with their advisor in a social environment such as a restaurant or outdoor cafe.
For those who do want to meet with their advisor face-to-face, do they expect their advisor to wear a mask during that meeting? More than half (54%) do want their advisor to wear a mask while over a third (36%) don't care if their advisor wears a mask or not. More than two-thirds of women, however, would like for their advisor to wear a mask.
Once a vaccine is available, investors will not quickly change their opinions regarding the use of a mask. When investors were asked on a 0-100 scale with 0 being "Don't Agree" and 100 being "Agree Strongly", they ranked the statement "I prefer people continue to wear masks" at 61.01. The statement "I prefer that most business be conducted electronically" scored at 56.08. The preference for businesses continuing to have shields was rated at 64.02 while the preference for social distancing to continue was ranked at 63.48. The preference for large gatherings of people such as concerts and ballgames to be canceled was listed at 50.51.
Changes in the social fabric of the U.S. will continue after the pandemic. Financial advisors and providers need to take the lead from their clients. Clearly virtual meetings and the ability to communicate and conduct transactions will be even more important in the future. At the same time, advisors need to be respectful of their client's wishes regarding social distancing, barriers and masks. These preferences vary by age, region of the country, gender and multiple other factors. Understanding client preferences will be critical over the next 12 months.