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How Advisors Can Unlock Competitive Advantages While Stuck at Home

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As advisors navigate through the coronavirus crisis and the resulting market volatility, they are grappling with unprecedented changes, but some of the changes — at least those on the technology front — can actually be used to their advantage, according to executives at six fintech firms.

For one thing, “video cannot be overstated” because it is an absolutely “invaluable” tool for advisors, especially now, Robert Sofia, CEO of Snappy Kraken, said Thursday during the webinar “CEO Roundtable: Leading Through Change,” which included CEOs from five fintech companies and Lori Hardwick, chair of Riskalyze.

He suggested that advisors regularly upload a video message for clients to social media and also send out an “email blast,” telling viewers: “Let them hear you every couple of weeks. Let them see you every couple of weeks — or once a month at least by video.”

Corey Westphal of Mobile Assistant said: “Virtual meetings are kind of the new norm.” However, he was quick to add: “I think it’s really important to remember … that just like your clients really react in different ways in your in-person meetings, it’s the same in the virtual environment that you’re in. So some clients, for instance, really rely on data” and visuals can help them during a meeting about their portfolio management.

If you “have a client that really responds well to having you on video, don’t just make phone calls — use the video capability with … conferencing and really engage with your client,” he urged advisors.

However, Adam Holt of Asset-Map warned that video is not always advisable and should be used sparingly. After all, “when you’re trying to communicate with clients in a new way today, you have to recognize that this might be a completely new experience for them,” he pointed out. Video can be “extremely distracting” when talking to clients about technical information, he said.

All advisors, however, must “decide that they are going to have a capacity to deal with their clients remotely — [because] if you don’t,” you are going to have “a hard time competing,” Holt said.

Advantages to Remote Work

Of course, the employees of most advisor firms are probably doing all their work, client-facing or not, remotely right now. That has likely created some challenges for at least some of them.

However, Snappy Kraken has “been remote from day one” — despite the fact that Sofia was skeptical of remote work when his firm was started in 2016, he said.

“My mindset has completely shifted because everybody has their own circadian rhythms,” he said, explaining: “There are times when they are productive and times when they are not.” Forcing people to eat lunch at a specific time, for example, is not natural, he said.

“When you set people up to thrive in an environment that’s natural for them — a workspace they love … then you give them the flexibility to go and take that bike ride in the afternoon … [and] they get reenergized,” he noted, adding: “You get the best out of people and I’ve seen that firsthand.”

Advisors should adjust and “use this time to get your remote work policies in place because when we come out of this there’s going to be so many amazing people who do not have jobs and are in places outside of your area and you can attract them to your firm because they want remote work [and] because they need a job and you can get A players for the price of B players or C players,” he advised viewers. The result will be that “you can serve your clients better [and] you can have a better company.”

Westphal agreed that remote work capabilities expand the level of talent advisors can have working for their firms, noting it provides his firm with a “competitive advantage.” This pandemic has “definitely brought to light the value of having remote” workers, he said, noting his company was not affected by the shift to remote work, either.

Prospect and Advertise Online

Noting traditional seminars, workshops and face-to-face meetings are currently not possible, Sofia suggested all advisors take advantage of digital advertising. “It is a wonderful time to advertise online,” he said, adding: “People are spending more time on social networks and they’re spending more time reading the news. That means more exposure to your ads.”

He also urged advisors not to stop prospecting for new clients. Many advisors are overwhelmed during the crisis and stop reaching out to their clients. But he added: “Right now, advisors are heroes to the people who need advice and there’s a lot of people who have not been getting good advice from their advisors who do not know how to answer the question ‘what should I do right now?’”

It is a great idea for advisors to be “out in front and to say, ‘here we are providing you these answers’,” he said, calling it a “great opportunity to grow.”

And he added: “You don’t have to feel bad about it. You’re roofers after a hurricane. There’s going to be financial carnage and you have a way to help people.”

Other Tech Tools

Orion Advisor Tech recently started offering free, self-guided access to its Orion Planning platform to all advisors, clients or not, as a way to help during the coronavirus pandemic, Eric Clarke, CEO of its parent company, Orion Advisor Services, pointed out.

“All of us need to figure out how can we step up and help during this global crisis,” Clarke said, adding he hoped “advisors really take advantage of this” and, in turn, “reach out to as many members of their community as they can during this time of crisis.”

Meanwhile, because “we have more time now,” Brian McLaughlin of Redtail Technology noted this is a good time for advisors to do what his firm did and upgrade their training. He is not planning to cut any jobs at his company now, just “repurpose them” for other types of work, he said, noting how important it is for everybody to learn to adapt.

This is also a good time for advisors to start setting the right expectations for their clients’ investments, according to Hardwick. Her company’s chief investment officer, Mike McDaniel, “always used to say the best time to have a risk conversation with your client and to set those expectations is when the market is good,” she said, adding: “This is the second best time to have that conversation, when the market is not so good, and to start setting those expectations for what they can weather” when it comes to risk.

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