Virtual Solutions Ease 2020 Transition

Advisors meet challenge with tech

Financial advisors whose entrepreneurial skills have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic are increasingly turning to technology to help them keep their practices operating and to maintain contact with their clients.

The industry spends about four percent of its annual revenues on technology, according to CNBC – a figure that is expected to grow as more firms embrace digital operations. Research firm Cerulli reported that its survey of 2,000 financial advisors last year found most advisors were not making extensive use of new digital solutions. Only 36 percent of those surveyed were heavily embracing technology. However, the technology trend changed significantly in 2020 as advisors turned to videoconferencing meetings, online account management systems, and virtual communication platforms to stay in touch with clients and prospects.

Blair Braden“This is a huge opportunity to better leverage technology to reach our clients more often and with more concise information,” said Blair Braden, CFP®, managing principal at Denver Wealth Management in Colorado. “It is also an opportunity to increase our market share of clients who are not geographically convenient to either the advisor or the client.”

From an entrepreneurial standpoint, Emily M. Harper, CFP®, private wealth advisor at Monument Wealth Management in Alexandria, Virginia, said she and the firm have grown tremendously during the past year.

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“We essentially crammed 10 years of cultural change and technology adoption into six weeks,” Harper said. “Monument has also taken on new clients during a time where face-to-face meetings were not possible. This is 100 percent attributed to our efforts in the digital medium.”

The company also rewrote its 10-year strategy to account for 2020’s changes in the industry and in the world.

“There really is no getting back to ‘normal’ for Monument,” she added. “It is now more about how we adjust to the future of the business, and how we adjust our culture and operations to stay ahead of our competition.”

Even before the pandemic, Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, California, was investing heavily in technological solutions for its advising process and to improve client relationship management, according to Kimberly Foss, CFP®, CPWA®, president and founder.

kimfoss“Our principal focus has been around building resilient communication systems and methods that will allow us to remain responsive under various unforeseen conditions,” Foss explained. “The one thing our clients will always need is clear, timely, and accurate communications. Most of our contingency planning is built around that.”

Empyrion has transitioned to a “full curbside” approach to provide services and information to clients where they are. She said the firm has positioned itself as a go-to informational resource on everything from how to “Zoom” safely to strategies for taking maximum advantage of government stimulus options.

“We want our clients to know, above all, that when the environment is confusing and uncertain, they can depend on us for authoritative guidance and access to necessary resources,” Foss added.

Norman A. Pappas, registered representative with Pappas Financial in Farmington, Michigan, said the global pandemic has been a catalyst for considerable reflection at his firm.

“From a business perspective, staying in communication with our clients during this time of uncertainty is critically important,” Pappas said. “Ordinarily, that would mean more frequent meetings with our clients, but in-person meetings were not an option. We were quick to adjust to videoconference meetings and conference calls. We even invested in a technology software program that allows our clients to view our calendars and schedule a meeting with us at a mutually-convenient time.”

Pappas added he feels the firm transitioned extremely well to the unexpected changes this year, and operations continued at a high level.

zoomconf“Our clients and the company actually welcomed the transition, and we have continued to grow the business,” Pappas said. “Recently, a client said that he would prefer to do future reviews via video rather than by coming to the office – even after everything goes back to ‘normal’. I think this is a testament of how well the transition went.”

At Denver Wealth Management, Braden said, the firm is using a number of virtual platforms, including podcasts, blogs, and videos. The shift to digital outlets makes the firm more scalable, better able to communicate with all its clients, and less geographically limited.

“Going into this mess, we had a game plan for the past seven years concerning what we were going to do in the next bear market,” Braden continued. “That was all based on what was considered the truths of years prior. But the current situation is much different. We had to be nimble, swallow our pride in a few instances, and question our actions based on the current data set.”

That same approach is relevant to all businesses and for all entrepreneurs, Braden added.

“It is so important to question your process and beliefs, and to be comfortable with the fact that you may have to pivot in a direction that you may have never imagined.”


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