“It goes into our calendars so the only thing I have to be diligent about is to remember to block out my busy times,” he says.
Prospective clients can schedule get-acquainted meetings through Oregon-based Cedar Financial Advisors’ website, “If a prospect would be more comfortable scheduling a get-acquainted phone call, we can do that, too,” Kober says. If potential clients feel uncomfortable making an appointment this way, they’re probably not right for Cedar Financial, he reasons. But for those who do, it’s a time-saver for everyone concerned.
Employing technology in strategic ways can free planners to spend more time communicating and less time fretting. “I’m discovering that my clients are less concerned about technology and more concerned about good old-fashioned face time and phone calls,” says Brian Frederick, principal at Stillwater Financial Partners in Scottsdale, Ariz. “My focus now is becoming more efficient.”
Of course regulatory requirements need to be taken into consideration, but generally RIAs have more freedom in what software can and cannot be used than do advisors linked to a broker-dealer. Still, planners often end up with a variety of software programs that often don’t play well together, having to move data manually from one program to another. That means efficiency efforts are defeated.
Many firms are successfully meshing software and systems, and making increasing use of virtual assistance. Cedar’s tech-savvy clients often suggest other products to make the firm more productive. A virtual administrative assistant completes the picture. “We have the best of both worlds: Our virtual admin is a professional woman who wants to stay at home with her children, but she’s only 10 miles away so if I have a big stack of documents that need to be scanned, I can drop them off at her home.” He adds: “We have nothing in our offices worth stealing — we take our laptops home at night, and we don’t have a file server; I sleep better that way — I know all our files are safe.”
SAFETY & EFFICIENCY
Mitchell Reiner, CFP, CIMA, chief operating officer at Capital Investment Advisors, makes sure the Atlanta-based firm is operating efficiently for marketing, investments and client service. “We connect with clients proactively and often, thus alleviating the growing concern with many clients who wonder if we as their advisors are looking at their accounts,” he says. “If you can alleviate these fears by delivering information effectively across your client base, then you’re leveraging technology to be more efficient.”
Reiner also is a founding partner of Wela Strategies, a sister company also based in Atlanta. At both firms, clients are updated using email. “I see social media more for prospective clients, but I also repurpose emails to connect again with clients in case they didn’t see the email,” he explains.
“We believe that using technology makes us more efficient by focusing on communicating through many media — digital newsletters, emails, social media – reminding clients that the firm is here, watching the markets and explaining how it affects them and their accounts.” Reiner adds that it’s imperative that all systems talk to one another. “Wela’s value proposition is to attract clients through digital marketing tools that engage, including calculator tools on our website.”
Bob Bolen, a CFP at Envision Wealth Planning in Brentwood, Tenn., had the need for virtual assistance thrust on him following several staff departures. “Clients don’t care how I do operations,” he says, “as long as whatever I do for them is done well. I see face-time and problem-solving as what clients want, while technology is best left in the back office.”