Supporting Clients, Not Offices
Virtual work has long been hailed as a key component of the “job of the future,” but for the most part has remained just that—part of the future. COVID-19 has brought that future forward, and the experience of the last six months has negated the need for brick-and-mortar offices, for both employees and clients. There’s nothing that an office does that can’t be done without one, and several things that not having an office improves.
More importantly, the resources we used to support an office are better spent supporting our clients and employees. We’d rather expand our product and engineering teams and build new tools for clients and planners than enrich our landlord.
For context: Facet was 80% virtual leading into the pandemic, with staff in 30 states. When we closed our Baltimore headquarters in March, it was business as usual the next day. In June, when it became obvious we wouldn’t be reopening the office any time soon, we terminated our lease. Our plan is to be 100% virtual for the foreseeable future.
Clients Aren’t Clamoring for an Office
We’re adding ~125 clients per week to our several thousand strong client roster. Not one of them has ever been to our office. Instead, we meet them where they are — in their living rooms, in their offices, or sometimes in the delivery room (we have had joyous new parents call our planners from the hospital to talk 529 plans for their newborn). We exist to serve our clients. Expecting them to come to us is putting an unnecessary burden on them. Meeting in an office forces clients to rearrange their schedules, maybe arrange for childcare, and travel to us. Plus, virtual meetings lead to more flexibility in scheduling—we work around our clients’ calendars, which is how it should be in a truly client-first organization.
When we meet virtually with our clients, they’re relaxed at home. Conversations are more personal. Often spouses, partners, and other family members are part of the conversation. We get to know and understand our clients and their goals in ways that don’t happen in an office.
A Larger Pool = The Best Employees
While an office-bound organization can only recruit employees who live nearby or are willing to move, we can recruit the best employees for Facet Wealth from anywhere. That gives us a much wider pool of candidates. The breadth of diversity and depth of knowledge on our team is extraordinary, and not something that we would have were we limited to one geography. It also gives us a much more diverse group of potential employees as well. We can recruit, onboard, train, and grow employees virtually, which is more efficient in terms of time and expenses.
Adapting to Virtual Work
The positive things that happen in an office, such as ad hoc conversations and socializing, can be done remotely. We’ve found that it requires a little more thought, but pairing employees for lunches, scheduling virtual happy hours and employee-led classes, building robust, targeted Slack channels, and other activities keep all of us close. This week we onboarded 14 new lead planners and associate planners. We broke the ice by asking them to talk about an object in their home offices that had meaning for them. Through this, they got to know each other in a way that never would have happened in an office setting. And I’ve yet to hear anyone complain that they miss the daily commute.
In many ways, working virtually has increased employee interaction and participation, because no one has to travel for events. We used to fly people to Baltimore for onboarding and special events, which would often affect their families as well. Now, everyone attends meetings and other events from the comfort of their homes.
The money we used to spend on rent, utilities, food and other office expenses now goes towards new tools and technology, our employees, and improving the client experience. Clients can choose Facet no matter where they live, and work with a dedicated CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in their time zone. That makes the benefits of Facet Wealth available to everyday Americans across the country.
We’ve rarely lost prospective clients because we couldn’t meet with them in an office. We’ve never had a potential employee give us the side eye and walk away because we’re virtual. What we have seen is clients and employees embracing our virtual model. The average office eats up 3-5% of gross revenue. That revenue is much better allocated to our employees and our clients.