How Wingate have adapted to Financial Planning under the Coronavirus

The Coronavirus continues to have a huge human impact throughout the world, and whilst most Independent Financial Advisers, can continue their business as usual, Wingate Financial Planning have made significant investments into both Information Technology and systems to ensure our preparedness as part of our ‘disaster recovery plan’.

Continuation of business

Every member of the Wingate team has been retained, and is working as normal. There is only one exception, and that is the individual who has responsibility the best client experience on visits to the office, but she is on full pay, as the role is temporarily unnecessary when we are unable to have clients visit the office.

Everyone else has access to all client files through a secure web portal, the full Office suite through Office 365, and our secure phone system (with recording functionality) through our internet telephony system, with our existing numbers retained and the ability to transfer calls to (virtual) “internal” extension numbers.

Data security

The security of our customers’ data is of the utmost importance to us.
Having invested in new ultra-compact desktop PCs in 2018 for most people, those using these computers at home will have a managed IT policy that prevents the transfer of data, security monitoring and anti-malware updates.

Office 365 also offers robust information security and journaling – this mitigates the risk of data abuse, and also keeps an audit trail of activity.
All existing and new potential clients will be offered access to the “Wingate Portal” – a way we can share documents without relying on paper post or the significantly less secure option of email.

Access to the above systems is prohibited without the possession of a “third factor” i.e. even were a username and password to be compromised by a malicious individual they cannot logon without receive a secure code (which changes every 30 seconds) or other key.

Maintaining our service

Whilst our advisers cannot conduct face-to-face meetings, we have switched seamlessly to virtual meetings; either over the phone, or through video, and have access to the three main platforms: Zoom, GoToMeeting and Teams. Whilst there has been discussion in the media of issues over at least one of these platforms lack of security, these are caused by poor user configuration, and all our meetings are passworded, and we have the ability to ‘lock’ the meeting after it starts. All conversations are encrypted so they cannot intercepted as they move through the internet.

These platforms also allow screen-sharing, and around 70-80% of our clients have taken the opportunity to catch-up with us through March and April and see the effect (if any) of Coronavirus, and the recession it has brought about, through our sophisticated cashflow planning software.

Outside of this contact, which is addition to the normal client annual strategic meeting, we have issued a two-weekly investment update on the virus, and what it means for client portfolios.Our Wingate Portal also allows documents to be signed electronically, virtually removing the need for paper.

Security of our premises

The only imperfect communication method is conventional post, and sadly some of our suppliers still insist on ink signatures, we also continue to accommodate the small number of individuals who cannot, or will not, use email or our portal.

This means a member of the management team has been to the office every other day to share the little post we have. This does have the ancillary benefit of checking the premises is secure, but with our computers principally in our team’s homes, and no client data stored on site (we run a paperless office) the risk is minimal.

Employee Wellbeing

Whilst we feel we have been quick to adjust to the change, ensuring everyone is well, physically and mentally is a core concern to us.
We have introduced a weekly social catch-up via Zoom (which allows bigger team meetings than the other two platforms) and also a fortnightly quiz which has presently three separate ‘quizmasters’ and three different winners!

Within this each individual team has a weekly meeting to discuss progress on the team’s role, and each Wednesday sees a ‘business update’

“Normality plan”

Almost as important as our disaster recovery plan, which has worked well, is planning our return to normality.

It will be many months until we revert to working as we did in January 2020, and there’s a strong argument that we will take the positive elements of the way of working that have been forced upon us, and adapt accordingly – nothing will be the same again. However, we have a flexible view on what we will do when the current lockdown, which is as strict as we ever anticipate it being, is lifted

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