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We’ll meet again

Spending more time with clients is probably the best way for advisers to increase their income. The problem is time is a scarce resource and travelling to meetings can take as much time as the meetings themselves.

Having the client come to the adviser’s office may delay when a meeting can take place and result in fewer meetings in the long run.

Online services, by comparison, allow instant communications between people all over the globe.

Three weeks ago, Scottish Life won the Best Use of New Media category at the Money Marketing awards for its implementation of software to enable an elegant mix of meetings, including visuals, to take place without the need for hours of travelling.

I first wrote about the way the company had deployed Go To Meeting in Money Marketing on September 14 last year. This has added a whole new channel for servicing advisers. A desk-based team in Edinburgh is a few mouse clicks away when assistance is needed. This may not suit all IFAs but my understanding is that it is being well received by many and beginning to show real dividends.

Since then, we have used the product extensively within the Financial Technology Research Centre. I was so impressed that, within a week of seeing it, every member of the team had it on their system.

The product allows you to conduct meetings and presentations with a mixture of web content and phone calls. Essentially, this is a web meeting product with which you conduct a parallel conference call or, if there are just two participants, a direct phone call. Control of keyboard, mouse and presentation tools can be passed between multiple users.

The system does not use video cameras or provide a visual image of the other people involved with the call. Frankly, this uses too much bandwidth and to what extent do you need to see the person on the other end of the phone? It is what you are showing them and what you are saying that matters.

The service is ideal for taking a client through a mortgage application online or joining them to their pension scheme remotely. I have long believed that advisers will in future be engaging with clients in a range of ways rather than face to face and this is a practical demonstration of how it might be done.

Technology-enabled client consultations not only provide the prospect for time saving but may also make some relationships viable that would not otherwise have been.

This may particularly be the case where the client is on a fee basis or for wrap customers where there may be a need for frequent reviews. If both parties can share the same presentation, use of planning tools and portfolio information as part of a discussion, this could be ideal for facilitating more frequent client dialogue.

Removing the need for travel means that meetings that might otherwise have been impractical are entirely achievable. For example, we use the service when consulting with advisers over their priorities as part of the e-excellence rating process. For the wrap study, we engaged with Bankhall, Burns Anderson, Park Row, Sumus and Sesame, among others, in a series of calls covering different elements of wrap propositions.

Persuading people from Altrincham, Bristol, Liverpool and Oxford to all participate in discussions becomes far more achievable when they only have to go as far as their phone and PC.

Our own experience with Go To Meeting is that it enables us to get more people into more meetings more frequently. Provided you prepare the presentation material correctly in advance, these meetings stay more focused and are shorter while obtaining the same result as a face-to-face discussion.

Scottish Life parent Royal London is certainly happy with its experience with the service, which has also been deployed to Bright Grey, its protection arm.

IT director Ian Chapple says: “This has been one of the easiest implementations we have ever done. The software is intuitive, easy to set up and is well received by advisers. The level of investment has been modest relative to the amount we have spent on things like A-Day and it has been quick to show a return.”

The product is affordable even for the smallest firms, being available from £49 per user per month. The small business version allows calls with up to 10 attendees where as the corporate version includes up to 25.

Testing the latter, we have never found the need to go beyond 10 users and, without having a visual of the individual speakers, I suspect anything above this might become difficult to follow. A 30-day trial can be found at www.gotomeeting.com.

For those companies which do not have a conference call facility, there is integration with a toll-based conference call service covering 10 European countries. UK calls using this service are charged at 7.9p a minute, which having done some very quick desktop research over the internet appears to be pretty much the standard rate.

When dealing with bigger organisations, there can be a reticence to allow staff to download plug-ins and other software on to their PCs. As the system is actually delivered by Citrix, a world leader in networking and remote working technologies, we have found this far less of a barrier than with other applications.

The Best Use of New Media award is all about doing something different that can enhance the way providers, advisers and their clients can work effectively. The way that Royal London has implemented Go To Meeting ticks all these boxes for me.

From first-hand experience of using the product, I know it has made my business more efficient and I can see countless situations where advisers could use it to enhance communications with customers.

Readers wanting to discuss any of the issues raised above can contact Ian McKenna on 020 7863 0863 or at ian.mckenna@ftrc.co.uk

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