“For financial advisers, who I think are instinctively good at this anyway, it’s a reminder of how important soft skills are now. I’m not saying they haven’t always been, but they really are now.”
So how can you navigate the new landscape to continue delivering the advice your clients need?
Here are a few ideas.
Make sure your client is comfortable with the technology you’ll be using
“I would make sure you feel comfortable with remote conversations and are familiar with the technology,” says Hanifan. “And make sure your client is too before you start to do anything that relates to business.”
Of course, with some clients you will stick to using technology that’s already well established. “A lot of our older clients prefer telephone contact anyway, and a lot of them want written correspondence,” says Milton.
“So we’ve managed to maintain that, and nearly everyone now has email. Even if you’re ninety, you’re comfortable using email, because email has been around long enough now that it’s bedded in quite well in society.”
One area that needs careful consideration is the use of video calling technology. “What I am struggling with is trying to get older clients to use Zoom,” says Milton.
“I like Zoom, because it’s much easier to record calls than, say, Skype. A lot of older clients say ‘I know how to use FaceTime or Skype, but I don’t know how to use Zoom’. But apart from that, it’s absolutely fine, phone calls are all fine. Just calling in and checking up on people, they’re really appreciating it at this time.”
With both Skype and Zoom it’s possible to record calls, which means you have them on file. Both also support in-browser calls, meaning a client does not necessarily have to download the software to their device. You can also have multiple people on a call, meaning a client can invite a family member if they find that helpful.
“I have always been a big advocate that when advising any client regarding their estate planning advisers should include key family members as part of the discussion,” says Gary Kershaw, group compliance director at SimplyBiz.
Nonetheless, video calling won’t be right for every client. Nor is it a necessity for continuity of business.
If you use video calling, be prepared to adapt your style
Hanifan suggests advisers may want to ask clients more questions than they would in a face-to-face meeting.
“I don’t mean overload people. Ask more questions in order to ensure you and they have understood the topic. Because you’re not picking up non-verbal signals, and nor are they.”
It’s also a good idea with video calls to allow more time for answering a question, because there’s usually an audio lag. “For older people,” says Hanifan, “their adjustment to that is greater, and they need longer to reflect on the question.”