The threat of the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 in affected individuals, could accelerate advisor adoption of videoconferencing. On Monday night, Vice President Mike Pence posted guidelines on safe workplaces, encouraging employees to "use videoconferencing for meetings when possible." Best practices for the workplace, according to the CDC, also dictated that workers should "use other noncontact methods of greeting" instead of shaking hands.
Advisors, anticipating the possibility of fewer face-to-face meetings with clients, are turning to their peers on social media and researching new tools to weigh the pros and cons of various videoconferencing services, such as Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts and Loom, as growing swaths of Americans are considering self-isolation or facing the prospect of quarantine recommendations to limit the spread of the disease.
Advisor network Carson Group’s cloud-based client portal was already designed for situations where face-to-face advisor-client meetings might not be possible, said Jud Mackrill, chief marketing officer at the Omaha, Neb.-based firm. “An event like this just exemplifies just how imperative remote work is,” he said. “We believe that clients should be able to stay home if they wish. It could be for convenience, self-quarantine, busy schedules, or really anything. We know it’s not easy for advisors to move to video conferencing, but we want to give clients the experience they want.”
A growing number of clients prefer to interact with their advisors online, he added, noting that Webex, GoToMeeting and Zoom are all options for clients and advisors using the firm’s Client Experience portal. “When we look at the necessities of doing business in a modern way, you must have the ability for everyone to work remotely,” he said.
Advisors agree that simplicity is key to successfully implementing video-based meetings, especially for clients who may not be as comfortable with that mode of communicating. “We want to keep it as simple as possible,” said Benjamin Brandt, founder and president of Capital City Wealth Management in Bismarck, N.D. He first started using Zoom two years ago and prefers to send his clients one link with a note confirming the time of the meeting.
Brandt makes sure the computer audio and video is set up ahead of time and doesn’t bother with sending a dial-in number, if he can avoid it. Clear instructions about how to use video conferencing can make a world of difference with nervous clients.
While his clients are comfortable with video meetings, Tyrone Ross Jr., a financial consultant and director of community at Altruist, recommends filming a video walking through the process of setting up a videoconference for those new to that mode of communication. “Maybe you record it in your office, and you send it out as an email to your clients,” he explained. “If advisors haven’t embraced video now, they definitely need to start looking at it.” He recommends Skype video for one-on-one meetings with clients, because of the sharpness of the image.
Advisors who use video pointed to the ability to read body language as an advantage over a simple phone call. “It's more intimate to be able to look somebody face to face,” said Brandt. “That's better for relationship building. You want to have a good relationship with somebody, especially when the markets are acting so difficult. You want them to have confidence in you.”
It also helps that tools like Zoom and Loom allow screen sharing. Screen sharing can come in handy when looking at a portfolio together, or if a client wants his or her advisor to take a look at assets held in another account.
There are other advantages to videoconferences as well, said Brandt. “Two spouses don’t even have to be in the same room. I just got off of a Zoom call about an hour ago and the husband was in one place and the wife was in another place. Your meetings are much more efficient.” Meetings that once took an hour or more have been whittled down to 45 minutes, he said.
“The coronavirus, whatever it ends up being, could push us to implementing some of these things that we maybe should be implementing anyway,” he concluded.