In a year when nearly every aspect of life experienced an unexpected and abrupt turn, the way we interact with one another may have been impacted more than anything else. And while there is a yearning for things return to “normal”, it is likely virtual communication is here to stay.
An eMoney COVID-19 Pulse Survey found 69% of financial advisors report an increase in virtual client presentations. “Digital solutions enable advisors to meet virtually in a private and safe environment,” reported Think Advisor. “The same things that take place during an in-person meeting can now happen completely remotely, a trend that will certainly stick around post-pandemic.”
Cutter & Company, a Registered Broker-dealer and Investment Advisor, has found many clients prefer a video meeting to save time and reduce travel as the initial weeks of the pandemic turned into months. That trend is reflected in report from St James's Place, which found clients are now looking to their financial advisors for short updates in a video call rather than lengthy annual reviews. “Given the climate of continued uncertainty in the months ahead, personalized and ‘little and often’ contact is likely to be more valued than ever,” said researcher Holly MacKay in a FT Advisor article.
Not everyone may be a Zoom fan but seeing a face on the other end of a video call may provide tangible benefits. That same St. James Place survey “found the monetary value of advice was perceived by some clients to be 10-30% better returns on their investments and there was limited active switching between advisers.”
Suggestions to Enhance Video Meetings with Clients
The transition to virtual meetings happened virtually overnight. And we’ve all probably experienced a few less-than-memorable moments along the way. Even Zoom couldn’t resist poking some fun when it put together a humorous skit about a video conference call in real life.
To avoid actual uncomfortable incidents, there are several best practices to bear in mind when video calls with clients. These suggestions will provide an enhanced virtual meeting environment for everyone.
- Plain, solid colors will bring out your best.
- Avoid bright white or dark black shirts, which webcams do not like very much.
- Avoid “busy” or patterned clothing, which can be distracting to viewers on the screen.
- Have a lamp in front of you, not on the sides or the back.
- Avoid sitting with your back to a window, which can make you look like a silhouette.
- Instead, face the window so the external soft lighting will enhance your image.
- Step back from the camera. The closer you are, the more distorted the image.
- Make sure the video camera is at eye-level and look at the camera directly.
- Put your laptop or monitor on a stack of books to avoid having the camera point up at your face, which is an unflattering look.
- Consider purchasing a small lapel mic which clips onto your shirt and connects directly into the microphone jack of your laptop. These are available for about $20 and greatly enhance the way you sound during video conferences.
- In Zoom, you can go into general settings and adjust the audio, to pick your accessory mic instead of the mic from the webcam.
- It is possible to make minor adjustments to built-in webcams if using Windows 10 as described in this Windows Report
- Mac users have limited options for improving their built-in webcam. com has a few tips, including purchase of an external webcam that plugs into the computer.
- Most virtual meeting applications allow for some video adjustments. Additional suggestions about Zoom in particular are in this article on Guiding Tech.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued Guidance for Securing Video Conferencing earlier this year which advised using only company-approved video conferencing tools, after cybercriminals exploited vulnerabilities in video conferencing technologies that lack end-to-end encryption.
- Client privacy and confidentiality are important considerations. Virtual meetings must adhere to the same standards required of in-person and phone meetings.
An article on this subject by Michael Kitces discusses some that are particularly relevant for financial advisors.
Virtual tools are by no means a perfect substitute for in-person meetings, especially when it comes to meeting with prospective clients. Earning trust from a new client is not something that will occur during virtual meeting. However, advisors who have earned their clients’ trust can reinforce and build on those relationships during well-executed and professional video meetings. It is worth considering that these virtual sessions have already become mainstays of client relationships. So, take the necessary steps to make them the best they can possibly be.