Coronavirus is just one reason to start virtual client meetings.
Coronavirus could be the catalyst to start offering clients virtual meetings – but there are many other reasons. People are busy, cities are congested, parking can be a nightmare and going to meetings is a hassle.
Virtual meetings happen when you ‘meet’ with others via the internet using virtual meeting technology – for example, Zoom, Webex, Teams. Not only can you see and hear each other, you can also share information via screen sharing. Meetings can generally be conducted from any device – desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile phone – and can connect two or more people in different localities. We’ve been using Webex in our business for eight years.
What does ASIC have to say?
- RG 244.94 – “The Corporations Act is neutral about technology. This means that you can give factual information and advice by telephone, email, internet, video conferencing or face-to-face, or in any combination of these or other ways.”
- RG 244.95 – “The way we regulate advice is the same, regardless of the way that you deliver the advice.”
There are many reasons why a virtual meeting may be attractive to clients:
- Sickness or disability – Can restrict a client’s ability to attend your office. This is especially true for elderly clients.
- Simpler and easier – Travel time, parking fees, time off work, organising babysitters. There is a lot involved for a client to attend a meeting, especially in major cities, but also in rural areas where they may have to travel long distances.
- Time poor and stressed professional clients – May find it difficult to coordinate calendars and find themselves rescheduling or cancelling meetings.
There are also many reasons why virtual meetings can be a great solution for your financial planning practice:
- Client opt-in – With annual opt-in looming as a real possibility, the last thing your business needs is for clients to find reasons not to attend review meetings. This would present a very real risk of revenue loss and increased admin work.
- More business done more quickly – Onboarding new clients can sometimes involve numerous meetings, especially for clients requiring holistic advice. Some or all of these meetings can be replaced with virtual meetings.
- Technology proficient – Not many financial planners or other professional advisers (accountants, lawyers etc) are offering this service, so you can position your practice as leading edge and technology focused.
- A computer, tablet or smartphone – Apart from some elderly clients, most people now have at least one device they can use for a virtual meeting.
- Reliable internet – The NBN internet rollout is almost complete, resulting in much faster and more reliable internet speeds.
- Set up and cost – You will need to follow an initial setup process but once completed, it’s as simple as emailing a link to the client. As with most new technology, it may seem difficult to get started but after a while you will wonder how you ever lived without it. Costs vary but you shouldn’t be paying more than $80 per month.
- Client acceptance – Most working clients will have participated in a webinar in their professional life and even retirees may have used something like Skype to keep in contact with family members on holidays or living long distances from them.
Secrets to successful virtual client meetings
- Provide clients with the option to have virtual meetings; explain the benefits and how it works. This could be done as an alternative to a follow-up meeting and, if you really want to streamline your business and make it more efficient, as an option to a review meeting
- Turn on the video – being able to see your face will engage clients. Ask them to also use video as you will get better feedback through watching their reactions and you can pause the meeting if they seem distracted
- Many of the same rules apply as for a face-to-face meeting:
- Spend a few minutes reconnecting with your client and building rapport;
- Set an agenda;
- Discuss each agenda item;
- Agree to an action plan; and
- End meeting – ask for feedback.
- Visuals are important. Scrolling through a document on your screen is OK, but not great. A better option is to prepare a PowerPoint presentation including relevant visuals and dot points to discuss.
- Using modelling calculators live on screen can bring a virtual meeting to life and make the meeting very rewarding for your client. They will be able to see their financial world unfolding and become more engaged in the meeting.
- Financial advice compliance can also be improved as most virtual meeting software allow you to record the meeting. Always ask clients for permission before recording.
- Audio quality may vary from client to client but you can always use your phone for audio as backup.
When to use virtual client meetings
- Initial meetings – It’s probably best to have initial meetings in your office so that clients can gain an appreciation of the professionalism of your practice and your staff and become comfortable with you. This will then form the basis of the professional relationship on which virtual meetings can be conducted.
- Follow-up meetings – Virtual meetings can be a great alternative to physical follow-up meetings. They will help you maintain the momentum of the initial meeting and keep the advice process moving. Often a series of 30-minute virtual meetings is much easier for a new client than trying to attend a series of visits to your office.
- Review meetings – Virtual meetings can also be a great alternative to face-to-face review meetings. The regulatory focus on review meetings and potentially annual opt-in, makes these meetings vital for financial planning practices, which risk losing substantial revenue if clients don’t attend.
Financial planning practices should be looking at ways to make it easier for clients to attend meetings and the answer could well be virtual meetings – and there has probably never been a better time to introduce them into your financial planning practice than now.
Letter of initial engagement – where the rubber hits the road