Local IFA calls for companies to ‘do business better’ in aftermath of COVID-19
An independent financial advice firm with close to £1bn in assets under management is campaigning for better business practice in the wake of COVID-19.
Equilibrium Financial Planning, based in Cheshire, has experienced an extraordinarily successful lockdown period, netting more assets than it did in the same period last year.
The company’s senior figures believe that this success has been down to preparation and an understanding of its purpose – but, more so than both of those things, because of its unwavering focus on taking care of its team members.
Equilibrium’s Managing Partner, Gaynor Rigby, explains: “We’ve always been massive on staff wellbeing and what our purpose is as a company – whilst, yes, we do specialise in financial planning and helping people manage their money, our purpose is to make people’s lives better. Whether our clients, our employees, or our wider community, that’s what we’ve always been about and it’s what we’ll continue to be about.
“However, lockdown and the COVID crisis has forced other businesses and the business community at large to reflect on this too. The pandemic has really crystallised the need for empathy, understanding, and human connection, in every area of life – including, and almost especially, within the business world.
“Pre-COVID, the general working culture in many businesses was completely unsustainable. For far too long, the emphasis has been on commercial returns and meeting the needs of shareholders.
“Jobs are vital – that’s undeniable. They give people a sense of purpose and direction, and something to strive for. But for decades now, across many UK workplaces, they have come at the expense of people’s mental and physical health. That is what has to change, and that’s why we’re now campaigning for ‘doing business better’.”
The lockdown period has seen the company – which, for the past four years, has ranked in the top ten of the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For list – throw even more support behind its employees, offering them company-mandated days off to decompress; care packages; online meditation sessions to replace the usual in-office sessions; free counselling sessions; free virtual doctors’ appointments; contributions towards electricity bills and other expenses and more.
Staff were also told by leadership that they were trusted to get the job done, and that they shouldn’t feel bound by office hours if they had childcare duties to tend to.
This is in addition to the benefits already given at Equilibrium, such as free breakfasts and healthy snacks, gifts, a generous holiday allowance, and any exams or training paid for.
This focus has made the COVID-19 period much easier for many staff, with Equilibrium’s recent happiness survey finding that 100% of staff agreed with the below statements:
- ‘I feel connected to the team due to the efforts Equilibrium has made whilst I’ve been working from home’
- ‘Equilibrium is looking after my wellbeing’
- ‘Equilibrium is keeping me updated on a regular/daily basis with that is going on in the wider business’
- ‘Equilibrium cares about me, and I feel like a valued member of the team’
“Although it’s been a testing period all round, lockdown has really confirmed the strength of our culture and values, which has helped us through this tough time together,” continued Gaynor. “We now really want other businesses to follow suit and treat staff wellness as the absolute necessity that it is.
“What many leaders still don’t realise is that prioritising the happiness of your team members will lead to an engaged, committed workforce, and that in turn will actually create shareholder value. We have demonstrable results to back this theory up – our lockdown period has been commercially very successful, and our advisers have been voluntarily giving up their evenings and weekends to ensure their clients are taken care of.
“In that way, what we’re proposing isn’t radical. We feel it’s just common sense. We don’t want business to be a dirty word – we think there’s absolutely a viable way to ensure that businesses can generate enough profit and economic value to help ensure a thriving global market and business ecosystem.
“The key difference is what then becomes of that profit. It’s crucial for businesses to invest portions of that profit into supporting the needs of their employees and making a genuine difference to the world around them.”