Insurance agents have since gone the way of the dinosaur but even advisers and financial planners tend to be based in a local office serving a local clientele. If a client moves away, then we may continue to serve them, holding meetings when they revisit the area, or occasionally we may go and see them wherever they are.I think it is fair to say that advisers traditionally serve their local area.
This is probably rooted in the old industrial branch insurance agencies. I used to trudge the South Wales valleys in the rain collecting premiums on a four-weekly schedule. My patch was my patch and that was that.
Over the last two years, the majority of my new clients have come from hundreds of miles away, largely due to my online efforts in video and podcasts.
Year-to-date, new client enquiries from online sources have overtaken those from client referrals for the first time ever.
This is clearly an important source for us and we need to make the most of it but can we really be effective serving clients at a distance?
The existence of decent broadband in most areas of the country means Skype, Google Hangouts and Apple FaceTime are now quite reliable. For the most part, dropped calls and jerky video are things of the past.
While not quite as good as being face-to-face with a client or prospect, it is a better proxy than it has ever been before.
I have not changed my underlying process at all to cope with distance clients. I will still hold an initial chat to vet the client and see if they fit our ideal profile.
If they do, the same three-step process we always use works just as well over the internet.
I can share my screen when we are at the cash-flow modelling stage and anti-money laundering requirements are also easily fulfilled.
The only thing we cannot do is be in the same room when they are signing forms but with Echosign and other technologies also maturing, wet signatures will soon be a thing of the past.
So the mechanics of the advice process work almost as well, in my experience, as being in the same room as the client. But there are downsides.
Sometimes clients need a nudge from us to take the best course of action.
Between getting agreement on a Skype call and them receiving the forms to complete, doubts can creep in and forms can stay unsigned for a while.
I definitely feel as if I don’t know the clients quite as well when I have only met them online as I do if we have met face-to-face. This is difficult to explain and a bit subjective but is real all the same. The relationship just feels more virtual somehow.
But this is overcome by the opportunity to service my ideal clients no matter where in the country they are.
I am convinced that for those of us who want to adopt this way of working, the technology will improve further to make it an even better experience for us and our clients.
Pete Matthew is managing director at Jacksons Wealth Management