Over the past week, I participated in WebEx meetings, Zoom meetings, Microsoft Team meetings, remotely filmed a number of videos and conducted three live webinars with video. Needless to say, all of this forced me to upgrade my home computers and laptops in order to be able to download the necessary apps (I use Apple outside of the office & I’m a boomer).
Whew! I’m exhausted just revisiting my recent digital journey. I didn’t have the usual luxury of asking the IT millennials on our team for help. It was a challenge, but I’m better off for being forced into what’s been referred to as a digital transformation. So what does this portend for financial advisors in the future?
The Complex Hybrid Professional
Thousands of financial advisors and millions of clients are confronting their version of this digital transformation. It’s all about communication and productivity. Yes, how we’re currently communicating has been forced upon us, but is this going to be our new post-COVID-19 normal? I think it’s going to be a major component.
Financial advisors should be preparing for a future that doesn’t exist. No prognosticator has a crystal ball, which means that financial advisors will have to think for themselves, make assumptions and be extremely flexible to change.
From my vantage point, the financial advisor of the future will be a complex hybrid professional who adapts, rather than fades away. Yes, there’s likely to be less financial advisors in the post-COVID-19 world, with some estimates having 50 percent not surviving.
This creates opportunities for financial advisors who embrace this uncertain future. So let’s take a quick hypothetical look at this complex hybrid financial advisor from three perspectives: personal qualities, client experience and marketing.
People are fed up with the steady drumbeat of conflicting advice, the blame game—vitriolic narrative, and untrustworthiness of it all. They want to hear the unfiltered truth. They want knowledgeable guidance delivered by someone who cares about them.
Truthfulness – no spin, no bias, no excuses—just the truth. So it should come as no surprise that this is an essential personal quality. This means that you, the financial advisor, have the client’s best interest behind every word and action. Most advisors embody this quality, however, research tells us that many clients, particularly the affluent, are beginning to have doubts. This is dangerous territory, which I’ll address when discussing the new client experience.
Empathy, like truthfulness, has always been a personal quality of elite advisors, but this crisis has created an emperor with no clothes moment—people are tuned in to;
- Do you really care?
- Do you really understand me?
- Are you really listening?
True empathy will replace the proverbial value proposition. It will be essential to both client loyalty and new business development.
Depth & Breadth of Knowledge – all of which has become increasingly more complex. Clients won’t expect you to have all the answers, but they will expect you to thoroughly connect the dots within the multidimensional aspects of the financial world on their behalf. The financial advisor of the future will be a true knowledge worker.
Our pre-coronavirus affluent research highlighted convenience as a key component of the client experience. Traveling to a downtown office, hassling with parking and building security, etc., has taken its toll. Clients have now experienced a convenient alternative.
The “stay at home” world has placed technology as an essential communication tool. That said, the post-COVID-19 world will involve personal interaction, but most likely it will involve activities like social lunches, office meetings, meetings at client’s homes and the like. But technology will play a major role in the aforementioned. Whether it’s a Zoom meeting, the next level of client interfacing investment technology or personally interacting on various forms of social media—the digital transformation will be at work. Granted, this will vary from client to client, hence the importance of knowing each client and being flexible.
It’s important that an effort is made for every form of communication to come across as personal. The more we’re involved with technology, the more we crave personal interaction. A personal phone call now takes on a new meaning. Surprise and delight gifts become even more important. Emotional connectivity will be sacrosanct.
This is why the financial advisors of the future are going to know more about their client’s families. This information will be as important to the client experience as delivering financial advice.
Word-of-mouth influence will continue to dominate advisors’ ability to acquire new affluent clients, but the digital transformation will significantly expand the messaging. When was the last time you read a review before making an online purchase? Did it influence your decision? This is where compliance regulations will be forced to change—remember—we’re talking about the future (not what you’re allowed to do today) and technology will be a major player in financial advisor marketing.
Live intimate social events and lunch-n-learns will still have a role, but financial advisors will be hosting webinars using Webex, turning Webex webinars into podcasts, conducting virtual cooking glasses, wine tastings, etc. that will be made personal because of the video component. This will also enable advisors to broaden their reach as there will be less concern about geographical barriers in this digital transformation. Some personal introductions will be virtual and seem quite natural.
Videos will play a big role: content marketing, testimonials, top of mind messaging and much more. Advertising on various social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube, will become commonplace as will podcasts, and websites will be interactive and far more personal.
With physicians now being rated by numerous review sites, (Healthgrades, Vitals, RateMDs, WebMD, etc.) the future will likely have similar online sites for rating financial advisors.
The financial advisor of the future will be a complex professional, a hybrid knowledge worker who’s fully embraced the digital transformation and in possession of superb personal skills. All of which will be critical to strengthening client loyalty and new business development. No one can predict the future, but by preparing yourself now, you’ll be prepared to capitalize on the opportunities the future will present.
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com