I remember when I started my advisory business in 2003. Almost all of my early clients I got were the result of face-to-face meetings. Not only that, but when a client agreed to have me do a comprehensive financial plan for them, it involved a series of in-person meetings where information was gathered and conversations were had over several weeks.
Then one day I got a new client whom I had never physically met. He was a U.S. citizen working in the U.K, so I am sure that played into the need for him to get comfortable with hiring an advisor he couldn’t meet with on a regular basis. We used video chat to conduct our virtual meetings and PreciseFP to gather all of the important financial information on his family.
What I found interesting, and quite frankly shocking, was that he didn’t feel the need to meet me the first time, before becoming a client. He was an IT guy, so that may have factored into his comfort level in using all the tech that I was throwing his way. Whatever the reason, it was the first of many clients I began to acquire that seemed to prefer remote interactions instead of face-to-face meetings.
Today, I think it’s a sign of the times. People have gotten busy. People have gotten more comfortable with technology. And now, people have even gotten scared to leave their homes because of pandemics like the Coronavirus (let’s hope this one doesn’t last too long). The reality is, advisory firms need to get on the Fintech bandwagon and start using tools that facilitate working remotely with clients. It’s not just about making your firm efficient anymore (although that should be reason enough). It’s what clients want.
The Covid-19 scare will pass. That much we know. People will return to work, schools will function again (incidentally, my three children will be learning via “virtual classrooms” these next two weeks since their schools are now closed)… Life goes on. But I do think that we are entering a new era when it comes to advisor-client interactions. It started with the internet and video conferencing, and was certainly helped by the “robo” phenomenon that we are witnessing. And it’s only getting stronger. Clients, although wanting to be engaged by their advisors, want to have less physical encounters and they want more interactions with technology. To the extent that advisors give clients that experience through Fintech, I believe the future will be bright.
Don Whalen, CFP®, CEO