Businesses all over the world are adjusting to the ‘new normal’ presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The global crisis has seen workforces everywhere leaving their offices to work from home, with meetings moved to Teams and commutes side-lined thanks to social distancing. Equilibrium Financial Planning, a wealth management firm based in Cheshire, has felt the effects of the coronavirus strongly – as stock markets around the world have fluctuated and its clients’ portfolios have shifted in tandem.
Now, the company has revealed its unique approach to weathering the storm, as it looks to prioritise human connection, staff happiness and CSR – an ethos which has seen it donate GBP5,000 to a local hospice and GBP2,000 to foodbanks to help with the crisis thus far.
Colin Lawson, who founded Equilibrium over 24 years ago, expanded on the company’s position: “Everything that we do at Equilibrium is centred around making people’s lives better and so, as the world has been thrown into turmoil, we feel there’s no better time to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into that.
“It’s a concerning time for our clients; many of them are anxious about how the economy is reacting to COVID-19 and what that means for their portfolios. Our advisory team is making sure that they’re being treated as an absolute priority – our stance is that we can’t ‘overcommunicate’. We’re doing daily video updates to them all and offering as many phone calls and video conferences as they need.”
Last weekend, the company’s advisers voluntarily cancelled all their weekend plans to offer support to clients and take queries over the phone.
Equilibrium has identified a particular category of client that might be considered most vulnerable – ones that might be recently bereaved, in ill health, or living alone – and is calling them regularly to check if they’re ok or ask if the team can do anything for them. It is hoped that these measures will keep this sub-sect of its client base from feeling isolated and alone whilst social distancing measures are in place.
The company’s financial seminars, which educate its clients on a number of topics relating to the economy and personal finance, are now being conducted via video link, with guests being sent Betty’s hampers beforehand to enhance the experience.
Colin is also sending out regular videos to clients on a number of different topics related to the crisis, such as ‘human doings’ –explaining how irrational behaviours are linked to a desire for certainty and control, which is why people might be reacting to the pandemic the way they are and, for example, panic-buying .
“Videos like this help our clients understand why they’re feeling the way they might be feeling. It’s really important that they feel confident and reassured in these hugely uncertain times,” adds Colin. “However, looking beyond that, now is also the time to throw our support behind both our team and the local community.
“Over the past week, the plight of charities has come to our attention. Food banks are struggling with having less volunteers and no produce as people panic buy. East Cheshire Hospice has had to cancel a lot of its fundraising activity which, like a lot of charities, they rely on to keep going.
“We’ve donated GBP5,000 to East Cheshire Hospice and GBP2,000 to various foodbanks via The Equilibrium Foundation. When we’re in the grip of something that changes each day, giving vital organisations such as these some stability is so important.”
In total, the company has donated GBP10,527 so far, to charities including Wilmslow Parish Foodbank, Elle For Elle, Manchester Foundation Trust, Hampers of Hope and more.
Seminars which Equilibrium was due to hold at a hotel in Chester required over 40 pre-paid meals to be bought per event. Now that these events have been cancelled, Equilibrium is donating all the meals to local homeless charities.
The company has also donated pads, pens and pencils to a local primary school, enabling them to create ‘emergency packs’ to send home with pupils as schools have been closed. Its financial literacy booklet, Libby’s Big Plane Adventure – which has been rolled out in over 40 primary schools since its launch in 2017 – has also been made available for free download to assist with homeschooling.
“From a team perspective, we’re doing all we can to make sure that our colleagues are feeling supported and happy whilst working remotely. We do twice-daily check-ins, and myself and our managing partner, Gaynor Rigby, are doing daily videos to the full team to keep everyone informed and on the same page.
“We’ve created a working from home ‘bible’ which we’ve sent out to everyone along with a care package, which contains teabags, biscuits, multivitamins, teacakes and handwritten notes. We don’t want people becoming slaves to their computers and working in their pyjamas, as that could have a negative effect on mental wellness – we want to be sure our teams are thriving and staying well throughout a time when things could feel somewhat surreal for them. We’re passionate about the wellbeing of our staff at Equilibrium, and that has to extend to outside the office too.
“We have a meditation coach who we’re getting to conduct lunchtime sessions online, so all the team can dial in remotely and meditate if they want to. We’ve also arranged for an online GP service to be available to everybody so if people are showing symptoms, generally feeling unwell, or have anxieties around the whole situation, they can arrange a FaceTime appointment with a doctor to give them advice.
“Positively impacting our clients, team and local community has always been the core tenet of Equilibrium, and it’s important to myself and the rest of the leadership team that it remains so even through this testing time.”