As advisers test technology platforms to ensure they can work seamlessly from home in the event of a coronavirus quarantine, some worry about the impact digital communication will have on their client relationships.
Mitchell Kraus, a principal at Capital Intelligence Associates, says his firm hasn’t started working from home yet but is doing additional testing of its digital capabilities. Trading and rebalancing are all handled digitally and can be done from anywhere, and the firm uses virtual phone numbers to remain in communication with each other and clients, Mr. Kraus said.
Whether an adviser is working from the office or from home, communication should be seamless for the client, but phone calls can’t fully capture the in-person experience, he said.
“We think we’re most effective one-on-one, face-to-face with clients, which cannot be done when avoiding personal contact,” Mr. Kraus said. “But we all have devices that we can work with clients via video chat when needed.”
So far, none of Mr. Kraus’ clients have taken advantage of the video chat. “Right now, the panic among most of my clients is around the markets,” he said.
Trevor Scotto, principal and co-founder of Fiduciary Financial Group, has similar worries about how digital technology could affect prospecting. While his firm has everything in place to support remote work — Zoom video conferencing, Slack for internal team communication, Redtail CRM to manage client communications, eMoney financial planning and BlackDiamond for clients to access accounts — Mr. Scotto doesn’t want to be fully digital.
“I feel that sometimes I lose the human connection that is needed to establish new client relationships,” he said.
Keystone Financial Services CEO and founder Joshua Nelson said it is important for his clients to see an adviser’s body language in meetings. His clients increasingly have been preferring video conferencing, even before the coronavirus outbreak, and while some clients leave their camera off, Mr. Nelson always turns his on.
However, the technology didn’t work perfectly right away, Mr. Nelson said. There was some “awkward trial and error” at the beginning as the team got familiar with both the software (his firm uses Zoom and GoToMeeting) and the hardware needed for video chat.
“My best advice is to test it out BEFORE you get on a real call with the client,” Mr. Nelson said in an email.
Mr. Kraus also noted that working remotely slows work flow a bit just because of differences between office and home technology. For example, his office uses Microsoft PCs while he uses Apple products at home.
Communicating in person will always be easier, but ultimately the firm is making do with the technology, he said.
“Things are set up to work remotely, and health is more important than a day or two of working in the office,” Mr. Kraus said.