When I was a kid, my report cards typically had comments such as “easily distracted” and “not working to potential” plastered all over them. Today they probably would call it a mild case of ADHD. I got through grade school and college with average grades, but it was at my second job, post college, where I truly taught myself how to learn and work. 

It was a startup, and since I was the sixth person hired, I was able to pick a great desk in the center of the action with a prime view of the city. After a few months, and after I was almost fired for lack of production, I moved myself to a dark back corner. I realized then that the only way I was going to succeed was to minimize the distractions and eliminate the noise.

Recently, I have uncovered another tactic for reducing distractions, and I think advisors could use the same tool to engage and create a better client experience.

Have you asked?

For our 2019 paper “Advisory Firms in 2030: The innovation imperative,” SEI and Financial Planning Association® (FPA) surveyed 436 financial planners. One of our questions asked where planners typically conduct client meetings. The survey suggested:

  • More than two thirds still meet with clients in their offices
  • Seventeen percent meet at the client’s residence
  • Only 9% meet with clients virtually

I get it. As someone who is on conference calls almost daily, I find virtual meetings impersonal, frequently hard to follow and sometimes flat out boring. Having two screens at my desk means that during many calls, one screen is whatever the call is about, but my attention is on the other looking at emails, glancing at the news or engaging with social media. As someone that is easily distractible, I am paying half attention to some of these calls. It is no wonder that most planners want to meet in person; if they are like me, their clients are most engaged when they do. 

Our innovation paper made the argument – and you have heard it from me on these pages – that our industry is evolving from planner or advisor centric to client focused. The client is in charge now and will make decisions on hiring their planner based on their terms around service, pricing and planning. They also will look for specialists that can help them no matter the geographic location of the planner. Planners will need to find ways to engage with clients no matter their location as in office meetings video camerawill likely dwindle. 

Score: Zoom meeting 1 - ADHD 0

Over the past few months, I have seen a trend as I have been talking to consultants and vendors in our business; more and more of the calls are video conferences (many using Zoom Meetings & Chat, but I don’t have a recommendation on which).  I realize that this isn’t necessarily a new tool, but the quality has greatly increased and my appreciation of the experience is growing. More importantly, with each of these video meetings, I’m more fully engaged when I am looking at someone (and they are looking at me). Instead of a disembodied voice, I am having a real conversation with a real person and I’m not checking the other screen for the current price of an index or an ESPN highlight. 

My guess is that advisors who use video can create more personal experience with their clients too. Nothing helps build the relationship like seeing each other smile as you converse. 

With my relatively new conversion to being a video call advocate, I have noticed a few things that need to be addressed for the planner looking into branching out.

  1. It is you, not them. Just because your clients may not want to share video does not mean you shouldn’t either. I did a call last week from home, after a workout, still in my sweats, hat on and in a messy home office. I was not about to share video but I was still engaged as the other party was on the screen. It still works and I felt a better connection.
  2. Be self-aware of what you are projecting. No one wants to see up your nose or the top of your head. If you are going to do it right, fix the lighting, make sure you position the camera (you may have to buy one instead of using the one that came with your computer) correctly.
  3. Use a headset. Using the computer microphone picks up too much ambient noise. A headset will give you better control over how you sound and you can hear your client better too.
  4. Test, test, test. Don’t try to wing it. Test your system, test your provider and test how you look and interact. You don’t want to look foolish as you get started, so do a few video calls with your staff, family and key stakeholders. Get real feedback and become proficient using the technology.
  5. Make it a part of your offer and daily life. This is not a one and done thing. The more clients “see” you, the closer the bond. Even for local clients, use video for the short meetings so you can continue to connect.

In a consumer-focused business, clients will want to meet on their terms and at locations that are good for them. By using video conferencing, you can be “in their house” even when their house is hundreds of miles away. It helps me keep focused, and my coworkers can tell you that is a feat on its own. 

Legal Note

FPA is not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries. SEI/FPA Online Survey, Financial Planners August 2019, n=436

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Legal Note

Information provided by Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI, a strategic business unit of SEI Investments Company. The content is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide investment advice or as a guarantee of any specific outcome. While SEI welcomes comments, SEI is not responsible for, and does not endorse, the opinions, advice, or recommendations posted by third parties. The opinions expressed in comments are the view(s) of the commenter(s), and do not represent the views of SEI or its affiliates. SEI reserves the right to remove any content posted by users of this site in its sole discretion.

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