In an era of social distancing, video calls have become the next best thing to face-to-face interactions.
As many office workers expect to be based in the traditional workplace again on at least a part-time basis when lockdown fully lifts, a hybrid working model in the long term will enable video calls to complement, rather than substitute, in-person meetings.
A client survey in March by Quilter Private Client Advisers even found four in five (80 per cent) felt that all their financial planning needs could be covered remotely.
An ‘omnichannel’ approach
Video calls are therefore likely to remain a popular way of communicating as part of a successful hybrid working model.
Julie Best, qualitative researcher at NextWealth, says: “Certain types of client meetings – for some it’s the annual review, for others the initial goal-setting conversation – are felt to be best suited to meeting face to face, as well as the more emotional and in-depth conversations following a divorce or a bereavement.
“For mid-year check-ins and updates, those conversations can happily move to Zoom or Teams.”
Nick Eatock, chief executive of software provider Intelliflo, says an outcome of lockdown has been awareness within the industry that communication should be ‘omnichannel’, whereby clients can choose to interact with their adviser in different ways at different times.
Eatock says: “Sometimes clients want an urgent conversation, sometimes a catch-up, sometimes a full review and sometimes they just want reassurance – and technology apps like Zoom and others are enabling this.
“By allowing clients to engage in the way they want to, and tailoring contact through different channels based on client needs, then ultimately advisers are delivering a service that’s both meaningful and accessible to them.”
Richard Phillips, consultant at Altus Digital, agrees that the ways advisers can be contacted will need to match client preferences.
But Phillips also highlights the importance of consolidating all communications in a single platform, such as a customer relationship management system, to record activity sent via multiple channels.
Indeed, in January the Financial Conduct Authority warned that use of apps such as WhatsApp can “present challenges and significant compliance risks, since firms will be less able to effectively monitor communications using these channels”.
The regulator added: “Firms will need to ensure that, if such apps are used for in-scope activities on business devices, they are recorded and auditable.”
Optimising a hybrid model
Michael Pashley, training and knowledge manager at support services business SimplyBiz, points out that apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom provide a way to record client meetings, alongside many of the benefits of face-to-face advice at a fraction of the cost.
Pashley says: “These apps may make the financial planning process cheaper and more efficient, with greater protection in place for firms.”
Adam Flowers, research consultant at information hub AdviserSoftware.com, says apps such as Otter can offer automatic transcripts.