With 2020 drawing to a close, you are undoubtedly reflecting on the challenges we’ve all faced—a raging pandemic, volatile market conditions, virtual work accommodations, social upheaval, and more—while casting an anxious glance toward the future. How long will these disruptions persist? Is this the new “normal,” or are you slowly returning to familiar ground? And as 2021 dawns on the horizon, how do you plan for yourself and your clients while so much remains uncertain?

Although no one can say for certain what the future holds, we've identified five emerging trends that could boost your business in the coming year.

1.) Everyone Is Embracing Virtual

As the country (and world) continue to navigate COVID-19, it’s a given that an increasing share of all business will be conducted online. Clearly, “virtual relationships” will remain a priority for financial professionals in the coming year, but will the shift to online relationships leave some clients, like retirees, out in the cold? Apparently not!

While you might expect that older clients might be unwilling or unable to make the shift from in-person to virtual consultations, people over the age of 65 are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. According to Bloomberg.com, seniors confronting the exigencies of lockdowns and social distancing are getting more comfortable going online to access everything from telemedicine to book clubs. As seniors get accustomed to online services (and appreciative of their convenience), this trend is likely to persist even in the aftermath of the pandemic.

2.) Many Clients Are Thinking About Retiring Early

COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on older workers. According to AARP, for the first time in 50 years, people age 55 and over have lost jobs at a higher rate than younger peers. During the first six months of the pandemic, workers in this age group were 17 percent more likely to lose their jobs than employees who were just a few years younger. While some of these unemployed older adults will undoubtedly look for new jobs to replace their income, others will be consulting their advisors to see if early retirement is a viable option.

3.) Client Expectations for Easier, Faster, and Richer Experiences

The bar for financial professionals keeps getting higher. Although the focus has always been on financial and retirement planning, clients are increasingly looking to you for assistance with unforeseen challenges (e.g., supporting an incapacitated or furloughed spouse), managing healthcare costs, and guidance regarding lower yields. Moreover, with so much piled on their plates, clients have less appetite than ever for time-consuming paperwork, limited business hours, and other aggravations.

4.) Deepening Need and Uncertainty Around Charitable Giving

The pandemic and its attendant economic fallout have caused a sharp increase in need. Whether it’s a food bank strained to its limit by increased demand or a museum suddenly deprived of admissions, nonprofit organizations are feeling the pinch. The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes that in 2020, at least some big groups saw dramatic increases in donations. But no one knows how a downturn in the stock market, a rise in unemployment rates, or changes to the tax code under the new administration might impact charitable giving in the year to come.

5.) Must-Have Technology

With the challenge of working remote and being geographically dispersed from both colleagues and clients, it’s no surprise that dollars and resources will continue to be allocated to technology and software advancements. But what improvements should you prioritize in 2021?

Invest in the “Big Three”

While there are plenty of software and technology advancements vying for your dollar, there are three areas that standout as priority investments:

1. Cybersecurity – As you continue to operate remotely and clients are asked to transmit sensitive personal information via the web, cybersecurity will become a major area of focus for almost all financial professionals. Moreover, as you implement an assortment of technology and software solutions to improve and streamline operations and facilitate access on different devices, you open yourself up to multiple avenues of attack from hackers. Investing in better security is an obvious necessity to protect client data and reduce the potential for reputational harm.

2. Mobile Apps – 2021 will be a year focused on the client experience, and what better way to improve a client’s experience than with an easy-to-use, secure mobile app? With fewer in-person events, conferences, and meetings, you can redirect funds from your marketing budget to develop apps that provide clients with the ability to review their financial information, communicate directly with you, and even network with peers or social connections based on areas of interest, geography, and more.

3. Online Chat – As you look for ways to be readily available to clients and prospects, you may implement online chat functionality on both public-facing and client-only sites. It’s important that if this feature is added, the user is told when to expect a response. Most chat technologies provide the ability to mark the chat robot as “away” or indicate what hours it’s available.

While 2020 has been a difficult year, you've never been more essential to your clients. Whether you're advising around an early retirement, freeing up liquidity for urgent needs, or simply setting up a health savings account, you are helping your clients adapt and thrive in trying circumstances.

If you'd like more information on how you can leverage the trends above to boost your business in 2021, please visit https://success.rightcapital.com/5trends.