Many advisers have replaced at least some in-person review meetings with technology-supported meetings (e.g. via Skype) This practice is becoming more popular for several reasons:
- Clients want to save time or may prefer the comfort of their own home or office instead of driving to the adviser’s office.
- Advisers may prefer the efficiency of review meetings aided by technology.
- People in general are more technologically savvy and comfortable with the notion of technology-supported meetings.
On the other hand, it is unlikely that one would use a technology-supported meeting as a vehicle for developing or strengthening a client relationship.
Pros and Cons
Advisers who conduct technology-based review meetings report that these meetings set up win/win scenarios—they’re more efficient for the adviser and more convenient for the clients. Typically, there is less chitchat and a tendency to get down to business sooner, so review meetings end in half the time that in-person reviews take. Still, there are some differences and possible downsides to be aware of:
- Less chitchat may be efficient, but it can rob the adviser of tidbits of information that enhance the client relationship or provide cues about a client’s understanding of, or comfort with, his or her financial status.
- Most likely, the adviser’s staff isn’t involved in technology-supported meetings, resulting in less input for the adviser. In addition, some staff may miss having the opportunity to interact with clients, an experience that gives purpose to mundane tasks such as filling out paperwork.
- Both clients and advisers need to assume the added responsibility of ensuring that personal information passes only via secure lines.
- Although advisers may have trained both spouses to participate in in-person client meetings, it may be easier to tap only one spouse or partner when the move is made to technology-aided meetings, which could open the door to some miscommunication.
This isn’t the first major transition in client meetings. Many tenured advisers remember transitioning from appointments in their clients’ homes to meetings in their own offices. That shift happened approximately a decade ago, and no harm was done. Nevertheless, advisers may want to keep these tips in mind as this change unrolls.
- Be sure that both spouses are involved in at least some technology-aided review meetings.
- Prepare clients for the importance of cyber security.
- Practice video technology before using it. For example, depending on camera placement, looking directly into a client’s eyes on the screen can appear as if the adviser is looking elsewhere. Looking into the camera, however, though not intuitive, comes across as looking directly at the client.
- Consider adding staff to some technology-aided meetings, depending on your staff’s relationship with a client.
- Offer in-person meetings as an option. Even if clients don’t want to take advantage of this offer, giving them the opportunity for in-person interaction is advised.
Financial planners are relationship people. Efficiency is wonderful. But efficiency that takes precedence over relationships is dangerous.
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Editor’s note: Read an article in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of Financial Planning that focuses on how to prevent identity theft here. Also, listen to an FPA webinar titled “Leveraging Cloud Technology to Overcome Cybersecurity & Compliance Risk” here. Another helpful webinar, titled “Mobile Security: Defending the Devices that Power Client Productivity” can be found here.