1. Embrace technology. This is an opportunity for advisors to think outside the box, and expand their skills and offerings to clients. Working remotely as a financial advisor since 2012 has been wonderful … the road blocks I encountered were [my own] perceptions of client expectations and needs in my divorce planning practice. Technologies such as Zoom, UberConference, AdobeConnect etc. have made calls and screen sharing simple. Then there’s the ability to share files via tools such as BOX, Google drive etc.
Embrace the change and join a practice group where you can share best practices with colleagues. Let's face it, in this current culture, with little time on our hands and younger folks embracing technology, and now add pandemics, working remotely can be of great service to the employer, the employee and the client above and beyond just business continuity planning. —
Michelle Buonincontri, CFP, Being Mindful in Divorce, Anthem, Arizona
2. Have your technology in order. • Get a paid Zoom account. While there are free versions, it would be embarrassing to have your call cut out in an important moment.
• Create colorful presentations in your firm’s brand colors to share on your screen. This keeps clients’ interest and attention. Try Canva for graphics.
• Try recording and sending short videos instead of or as a supplement to regular emails. Don’t forget to archive them for compliance purposes.
• Dress for the moment (business casual). Clients don’t expect you to wear a business suit right now. Rich, monochromatic colors such as jewel tones look good on your webcam.
• Create a webinar or virtual client event — education and/or fun only. Interview someone. Hold a virtual wine tasting or cooking demonstration. Be the person that brings others together. —
Cynthia Meyer, CFP, Real Life Planning, Gladstone, New Jersey
3. Improve your website and technology. • Update your website with a message regarding COVID-19 providing information as to whether or not you’re open, who to contact, etc.
• Depending on your setup at home, you might want to order a green screen. There is one that attaches to the back of your chair. You can use this to change the background that people will see during video calls; this way you can keep it looking professional (unless you have a really nice home office).
• Add an online calendar feature to your website if you have not already done so (Calendly, ScheduleOnce) so that people can schedule online meetings directly from your website or email signature. —
Luis F. Rosa, CFP, Build a Better Financial Future, Henderson, Nevada
4. Offer virtual or live webinars. During these times for social distancing, we’ve been using Zoom meetings exclusively. A new offering for us is live webinars. As a firm, we have always done 10-12 client events each year — those have proven to be an excellent way to stay connected with clients and provide them with timely information on the markets. Now that those live events are on hold, we are trying our hand today at our first ever virtual event. We hope that we will be able to capture much of the sense of “community” that our live events have, as well as deliver much-needed information and comfort for these difficult times. —
Charles L. Failla, CFP, Sovereign Financial Group, New York, New York
5. Go virtual, stay virtual. I launched my firm in December as 100% virtual. Given that was my business plan from day one, I have not changed a thing. Email, video conference and other remote tools were already critical for how I planned from the start to work with clients.
The biggest key with clients is to [tell them] what to expect. [Also], remember that social cues like eye contact that are easy in person can take a bit more effort on video. Call it out and your client will have more grace for you. —
Charles H. Thomas III, CFP, Intrepid Eagle Finance (online)
6. The need for speed. Working from home, dealing with family, etc. during the health crisis is a strain for everyone. The key is to be responsive to your clients either by answering their phone calls or email in a prompt manner.
Clients are scared right now and delays will only heighten their frustration. In addition to responding promptly, being proactive with email is helpful in providing market updates to your clients. This lets your clients know that you are aware of the situation and want to keep them abreast of recent developments. —
Tom Balcom, CFP, 1650 Wealth Management, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida
7. Have regular contact with your team. We operate as an ensemble instead of a silo environment, so team communication has become even more important. We're intentional about making sure we're checking in with various team members and utilizing all forms of technology. Zoom meetings, chat threads on Microsoft Teams, regular phone calls … The more communication the better right now. —
Rob Greenman, CFP, Vista Capital Partners, Portland, Oregon
8. Always have your continuity plan in hand. Communicating a continuity plan to let our [client] households know we are fully accessible and operational is critical. We’re able to continue service without disruption because of the technology we have in place. Whether clients reach out by the office line, email, text, or by scheduling a virtual meeting, we’re able to keep them informed and address any concerns. The ability for VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol], call forwarding, texting, scheduling, e-signature, and virtual conferencing have helped make the transition relatively seamless. It helps to provide clients additional confidence in difficult times like these. —
Sean M. Williams, CFP, Sojourn Wealth Advisory, Timonium, Maryland
9. Take a deep breath. A big dose of patience. —
Thomas I. Rindahl, CFP, TruWest Wealth Management, Scottsdale, Arizona
Advisors are traversing two treacherous worlds now: one in which they have to keep themselves and their families safe from COVID-19, and the other, keeping clients calm as the markets — and client investments — gyrate daily.
We asked advisors through the Financial Planning Association and XY Planning Network websites how they are handling these trying times on both these fronts. Although most answered with tips on how to better utilize fintech, one advisor, Cynthia Meyer, also added a note for those who now are working from home for the first time. These include:
The gallery above provides more ideas on how to handle your business during shelter-in-place orders.