One thing that is certain over the coming months is that financial advisers will have plenty of clients to meet. Most people have been impacted financially in some way by the pandemic, many people in a significant way as a result of the restrictions and lockdowns over the last year or so. Your clients need to meet you. The question that many advisers are asking themselves is about these meetings and whether there is an ongoing role for remote meetings into the future.
My quick take on this is that remote meetings will definitely continue to play an important role into the future for financial advisers and planners.
What clients want and the hierarchy of engagements
The first step to take before you make any decisions in this regard is to find out what your clients want themselves. There is definitely a growing belief that a surprising number of clients may prefer remote meetings going forwards. They don’t want to incur the travel time (and nor do you), finding parking, getting to your office etc. If you’re in a city centre office and the client lives in the suburbs, a one hour meeting can mean the guts of a half-day written off by one of you. Other clients on the other hand will definitely want to meet you face-to-face (F2F) again.
You also need to consider what works best, both for you and also for the client. If there is a hierarchy of engagements, F2F meetings have to sit at the top of the pile. Nothing beats that human interaction of meeting in person. If you have an upcoming meeting that requires deep engagement, such as getting the client to open up about their lifestyle / financial objectives or to guide them towards better investment behaviours, it may make sense for you to insist on meeting face to face – for the benefit of the client.
However if it’s a somewhat routine review session, a remote meeting may make more sense for all.
Virtual meetings definitely win out over phone calls as we’ve all found the unique and sometimes funny moments they can produce – the dog starts barking, the small child interrupting mum or dad or some mayhem in the background. They give you a better view into someone’s life and again, are just that bit more human.
Make remote meetings part of your proposition
Quite a number of advisers are now building remote meetings in as a stated element of their client propositions. They are being included for lower value clients where the level of ongoing income simply doesn’t justify a F2F meeting. Remote meetings are also being built in as part of an enhanced offering for high value clients, as an addition to F2F meetings – maybe an extra half-yearly or quarterly remote catch-up.
Some advisers are now using remote meetings as an initial screening call for new prospects, particularly where there are geographical distances involved. Advisers will rightly no longer travel great distances chasing some questionable lead.
Make remote meetings interesting
Remote meetings can be a bit awkward, when both parties are just staring into their cameras for any length of time. Look to break up this experience a bit by screen sharing during the meeting. Some items to share and run through together might include,
- An agenda: Always useful, this will put structure around your meeting.
- A presentation: A thoughtful and informative presentation is a nice break from staring at each other through cameras.
- Complex data: If you have any complex data to discuss such as investment reports and graphs, providing these visually will significantly enhance the experience and your client’s understanding.
- Future cashflow plans: Talking through forecasted cashflows and examining “What If” scenarios is extremely powerful in remote meetings.
- Brainstorming / collaboration tools: Mind mapping tools or virtual whiteboards are a very powerful and engaging way to make your remote meetings more interesting and to stop attention wandering.
Have the right set-up for good quality remote meetings
If you agree that remote meetings are here to stay, you need to ensure that you’re not being let down by the technology. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy lots of expensive equipment, however there are a few basic requisites,
- Good broadband: Without this, remote meetings are a very flawed experience and may do more harm than good. There is nothing more frustrating than someone coming in and out or appearing pixelated as a result of poor broadband.
- Camera & audio: These don’t have to be expensive additions, many desktops have very good cameras built in. However some laptops don’t… Check the quality of your device camera and if it’s not good enough, buy a decent webcam.
- Know the features: Whether it’s Zoom or MS Teams that you use, know how to use them. There really isn’t a lot to them, so know and use the features. Use the waiting room functionality and password features as a default, and then understand and check all of the settings are as you want them.
- Create the best environment: You don’t want to be interrupted during calls, so make sure this won’t happen. Also choose your backdrop carefully – try and avoid too much / too little light and have a tidy background. Some people like to feature bookcases behind themselves, others prefer a tidy, clean background. You can choose backgrounds within Zoom and MS Teams, but beware that these can create strange effects as you move around.
Remote meetings are most likely here to stay. Choose how you use them wisely and then put your best foot forward.