Skip to main content

You are here


2020: The Year of Adaptation

Practice Management

According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment.”

In 2020, we had to adapt personally and professionally to our changing environment in order to survive. 

Our lives have changed, I believe, forever. It is vital to embrace our new normal. Many of the changes we’ve seen in our industry, frankly, have long been overdue. Additionally, I hope the many of the changes this past year will be permanent. Let’s reflect on 2020 and discover how innovation will bring us a stronger future.

Virtual Meetings

If you weren’t using WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other virtual meeting software before, I bet you’re a pro now! Here’s what I love about this technology:

  • Time efficiency: Before going virtual, I only had one to two committee meetings per day due to travel time. Now with no travel, I can engage in four or more virtual committee meetings daily. 
  • Saving money: No travel means no travel expenses. For years, our compensation has continued to get compressed. Now, we keep a little more of what we earn. 
  • Killing fewer trees: We used to have to print, copy, bind and mail hundreds of committee books with thousands of pages every quarter. Doing away with this printing is saving us hundreds of hours as well as helping the environment. Now, our communications are electronic, and most clients have accepted the digital age.

This virtual world is a huge game-changer for us regarding efficiency, capacity, and profitability of our teams. Hopefully, beyond COVID, our clients will continue to accept this form of communication.

Read more commentary by Pat Wenzel here.

Working from Home

We’ve proved we can successfully work from home, service our clients and bring in new business. Additionally, adapting to new communication protocols helps assure business gets done efficiently and effectively. As we adapt, we must continue to innovate new processes for servicing and onboarding clients. Change brings challenges, but we must continue to adjust to make interactions better and easier. 

From what I’ve seen, advisors who had good processes and were actively servicing and prospecting never slowed down; they just stepped it up. Those who were not as driven or organized and not actively growing their client base are at risk of extinction. I am fortunate that I have 29 years in the industry, so most my business comes from referrals. However, many of my new clients this year came to me because their advisors were MIA. 

During a challenging market, you have to step up calling and communicating with your clients. Our digital tools make interactions and the frequency of communication easier than ever before. Make sure you continue to use technology to innovate on how to make business even better. As a leader, it’s even more difficult now to motivate and supervise your team. What matters is effective communication and organizational skills. Of course, we still have to constantly learn what works best with different people. I know many individuals have struggled with social distancing and isolation, leading to depression and anxiety. We always have to count our blessings—we are safe, comfortable and healthy. Our situation could be much worse! 

Eventually, as we continue to adapt during COVID, we may feel more natural wearing masks, staying at home and engaging in our personal and business relationships virtually. Just as species have evolved and adapted to their changing environments through the generations, so must we. It is vital to our survival. Remember, the dinosaurs did not survive, but we will, and we will reap the benefits as a result!

Pat Wenzel, CRPC®, C(k)P® , CFP ® , CPFA, is a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch in Houston, TX. She serves as NAPA’s 2020-2021 President. This column appears in the Winter issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.