The Coronavirus pandemic has required everyone to adapt to a new reality, and the financial planning profession is no different. Some firms, like ours, have been working with remote clients for years and have lots of virtual meeting experience. Others may be scrambling to catch up, but the new normal has been a learning experience for all of us. For us, it’s clear that to serve clients successfully in a virtual environment, we need to focus on four essential competencies.
Ease of use – from videoconferencing to file sharing to document signing, the technology needs to work. We’ve all been on the video call that’s plagued by technical glitches and they can be downright painful. We recently moved to Microsoft Teams as our videoconferencing tool and spent many hours internally learning the capabilities of the program and how to troubleshoot issues with video or sound. We provide detailed instructions to our clients on how to join meetings quickly and efficiently. On the document front, we’ve been promoting a paperless office for years and have embraced the DocuSign technology offered by our custodian, TD Ameritrade. What used to be conveniences for our clients have now become necessities, and we want those experiences to be as smooth and seamless as possible.
Security – safeguarding confidential information is essential to what we do, and we only partner with companies who share that same commitment. It’s one of the reasons we chose Microsoft Teams over some other, more ubiquitous meeting services. Remote work also means more sharing of electronic documents and the need for secure storage. They are called document “vaults” for a reason. While ease of use and convenience are important, they should never come at the expense of rock-solid data security.
Collaboration – planning and investing are very collaborative activities (or at least they should be in our opinion), so our technology tools need to be as well. Screen sharing on a video call and shared document folders are nice, but collaboration shouldn’t stop there. One of the many attractions of our financial planning software, MoneyGuidePro, is that our clients can use this web-based tool to run their own planning scenarios. Providing this technology tool leads to not only more productive meetings, but also more engaged and more satisfied clients.
Results – that brings me to the final must-have for a virtual planning environment: results. We have had to make some changes in how we do things, or accelerated some changes that were already underway, but if we do those things right, the end result for our clients will not be any different. They still have the confidence that they can meet all of their financial goals, and they still trust us to be good stewards of their investments.
We look forward to the day that we can meet again with our clients face-to-face, or travel to see clients in other parts of the country. But we know that virtual meetings and online collaboration will always be part of what we do, now more than ever. As we move through this pandemic and go forward, we will have the skills and experience to meet with anyone, anywhere, and deliver a great client experience.
About the Author: Kevin Fix, CPA / PFS is a Senior Financial Advisor at Fullen Financial Group. He has worked for more than 25 years in accounting and finance, with much of his career spent in public accounting and company financial management. He has extensive experience managing finances and investments for individuals, small business owners and large corporations. Kevin earned his CPA license in 1992 and became an independent Registered Investment Advisor in 2011.
Kevin earned Bachelor’s degrees in Accounting and International Studies from Miami University, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and their Personal Financial Planning practice section. Kevin lives in Upper Arlington with his wife, Amy, and their three children, and is an active member of the business community.
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