When the pandemic hit, it changed the way advisers do business
A profession built on tradition, personal rapport and trust suddenly had to move online, when face-to-face contact was suspended.
Continuing existing client relationships via Zoom or Teams is potentially tricky enough. But developing a relationship with a new client, without meeting in person, could be even more challenging.
So, have video calls made it harder for advisers to establish rapport with new clients, and to pick up on the subtle clues that they would note with ease, over a cup of coffee and a chat? Or will it replace the way things were done before?
While coronavirus has forced advisers to rely more heavily on technology to do business, it has not been a stretch for some, who were already moving in this direction anyway.
According to wrap platform Nucleus Financial’s 2020 Census, published in June this year (and undertaken just before lockdown), 30 per cent of the 183 firms surveyed were assessing alternatives to traditional face-to-face advice prior to Covid-19 – up from 25 per cent in the previous year.
Easy if you know how
Some adviser firms, such as Phil Anderson Financial Services were already offering alternative options, prior to the pandemic.
Managing director, Phil Anderson says: “At the beginning of the year, we posted on Facebook that we could do appointments on Zoom or WhatsApp, so we were ahead of the game.”
And onboarding new clients by video is no different from doing so in person, says Carl Lamb, compliance director at Smith & Pinching Group: “We’ve taken on a lot of new clients by Zoom. It’s just the same as a face-to-face meeting – the only difference is that it’s done electronically.
"And you can still build rapport and read body language – you just have to concentrate harder.
“It boils down to your skillset as an adviser,” he adds: “For those new to the industry, it might be harder.”
Making sure new client relationships get off on the right foot requires clear communication, says Keith Churchouse, director at Chapters Financial: “Normally with new enquiries, we do a phone call before the Zoom meeting, then email with terms of business and confirmation of what we’re going to be looking at and how long it’s going to take. So, expectations are managed from the outset.”
Swings and roundabouts
But there are also some obstacles to overcome, depending on how the new client has come to hear of the adviser, as Mr Anderson explains: “Clients tend to trust more when it’s a face-to-face meeting, but they accept that Zoom is the way forward in a lot of cases.
“Most people are happy to provide information by Zoom but some are wary of scams. If a lead has come from a lead-generation site, people are a bit more cagey but if they’ve come from a recommendation, they are more open.”