The power of human connection

In the absence of face-to-face engagements with advisors during the pandemic, we had to rely heavily on technology to stay in touch. But while technology is a powerful engine of communication, here’s what matters more. 

Jul 22, 2022

3 minutes

Jean Nasser
In the absence of face-to-face engagements with advisors during the pandemic, we had to rely heavily on technology to stay in touch. But while technology is a powerful engine of communication, here’s what matters more. 

As a member of a large Lebanese family, I have had plenty experience managing relationships – some more challenging than others. The lessons of my upbringing have deeply influenced the way I work and relate to clients.

In a world where technology has become increasingly important in service delivery, it is easy for people to become pigeon-holed into the role of ‘client’ or ‘product provider’ and for the human element to be lost. While technology is at the core of everything that we do at Ninety One, we attach great importance to our relationships with our advisor partners. Without them, we would not have a business. Their success is our success.

I have spent a significant proportion of my working career building and maintaining partnerships with financial advisors. It is these relationships that help elevate Ninety One Investment Platform from merely being a commoditised provider of administrative services to a firm that offers financial planning solutions. By having a deep understanding of how our investment offering can address the needs of investors and the financial problems those products can solve, we are able to have meaningful conversations with advisors. These conversations, and the learnings from them, provide the inspiration for our ongoing webinar series such as our Masterclass sessions.

Reinventing the way we do business

The COVID pandemic has been devastating on many fronts and forced us to reinvent the way we do business. Switching from face-to-face advisor engagements to webinar sessions enabled us to share critical information with a large number of our advisors on a frequent basis. But the impact of COVID was not just felt operationally, one of the biggest learnings coming out of the past two years was that relationships are vital during difficult times. While South Africans had mixed feelings about the televised ‘family meetings’ about COVID, Ninety One employees looked forward to the weekly email updates from our founder Hendrik du Toit. These emails gave us much-needed reassurance that we were not facing the pandemic and its devastating effects alone. The message from our leadership team was that we shouldn’t worry about targets but should rather focus on supporting our clients. A spirit of ‘we are all in this together’ increased the levels of collaboration with advisors, despite the lack of face-to-face contact. The quality of our interactions during this difficult period highlighted the genuine partnerships we share.

Having a strong focus on relationships, culture and values also gives our firm the ability to influence issues of importance to broader society. For example, we have long been committed to supporting the role of women in financial services. We also recognise the importance of women owning their financial future. Ninety One recently launched a dedicated knowledge hub, Women and Investing, designed to empower and educate women to make confident financial decisions for their families, their businesses, and their future.

Putting families first

As women tend to outlive men by five years, most women will become solely responsible for the family finances at some point during their lifetime. Women are also likely to be the first inheritors of wealth – making it critical for advisors to include them in their discussions with married male clients as early as possible. In support of this, our Ninety One Family Office development has been designed to encourage family communication about financial matters and to facilitate the transfer of intergenerational wealth. Fee aggregation at family level creates an opportunity for our advisor partners to win new business through more competitive fees and bring assets such as surplus bank deposits into the advice net. Consolidating existing family assets in one place also helps streamline an advisor’s business. The family level reporting component enhances the review process when assets are being managed as a family.

The COVID pandemic again emphasised the importance of relationships, trust, and the human touch in business – particularly wealth management. Ninety One is a people business – we care deeply about our relationship with the society in which we operate and investing for a better tomorrow. We are committed to the success of our employees, business partners and clients.

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Jean Nasser
Regional Sales Manager, Ninety One Investment Platform

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