Consultants are changing the way they communicate with clients due to pandemics. Here’s what to expect
Luis Alvarez | DigitalVision | Getty Images
Ivory Johnson was one of the many financial advisors forced to turn quickly when the pandemic hit the US more than a year ago.
In a business that is often characterized by relationships, Covid has largely stopped face-to-face meetings for consultants, including Johnson. The shift wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, however.
“I learned how to use Zoom, just like my clients, and once everyone became familiar with it it was a benefit,” said Johnson, certified financial planner and founder of Delancey Wealth Management in Washington.
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“I don’t know my clients want to go back to the office for meetings,” said Johnson.
His experience is not an anomaly, as new research suggests.
According to a study by SmartAsset, only 12% of consultants had face-to-face meetings with clients in the past year. Instead, consultants’ video calling usage has increased from 2% pre-Covid to 48%.
Preferred method of communication
|method||Before the pandemic||During the pandemic||Expectations for the post-pandemic|
|Online messaging platform||0%||1%||0%|
And the trend is unlikely to go away. Around a third (34%) of consultants surveyed expect video calling to be their preferred method of reaching customers once the pandemic ends.
While 41% of counselors expect to hold face-to-face meetings after the pandemic, that’s a 56% decrease before Covid. Phone calls can also be successful: only 16% of those surveyed said they would prefer to use the phone after the pandemic – that’s 32% during the pandemic and 28% before.
“Like many consultants, I have clients who are away from home and it’s nice to meet them face-to-face at Zoom,” said Johnson.
Face-to-face meetings with customers
|place||Before Covid||While Covid|
|The customer’s house||13%||14%|
|Outside (golfing, hiking, etc.).||0%||5%|
Video conferencing also gives customers a sense of autonomy, he said.
“When you meet with a financial advisor in a conference room, some people may feel a little trapped, and when you zoom in on your own house, you have more control,” said Johnson.
He said there are still some aspects of customer relationships that can be better treated personally – i.e., estate planning, which can be an emotional experience for people, or any other sensitive event that a customer or their family experiences.
“If a customer dies, I won’t have a Zoom call with the family,” said Johnson. “I will go to you.”
In the SmartAsset survey, around 2 in 5 advisors (41%) said they had more communications with customers during the pandemic. More than half of them (57%) said they initiated the communication and 37% said that they and their clients reached out more often.
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