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How the virtual office creates tangible opportunity

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The four walls of an adviser's office is becoming irrelevant. Millennials, in many cases, are being used as a testing ground for technology aimed at enabling a new set of opportunities for both clients and employees.

One adviser who is part of this new frontier is Bethany Griffith, a millennial adviser at Abacus Planning Group in Columbia, South Carolina. She now lives in Germany with her husband, who is currently serving in the United States Army, yet she still manages to work full time for the firm, she said at NAPFA’s Fall Conference.

As just one of a handful of Abacus' employees that works remotely, Griffith said the evolving landscape has not placed a damper on how she serves her clients.

"I continue to work with the same clients I had when I was here," Griffith said.

Abacus has roughly 25 employees, and while Griffith is the only client facing adviser currently working remote, four employees at the firm also work from outside the office, she said.

Your Greatest Contribution, a fee-only advisory practice, is completely virtual and serves a diverse client base from millennials to baby boomers. Its founder, Rianka Dorsainvil, said just because the technology is new, doesn't mean her employees cannot comprehensively serve its aging client base.

"All meetings are video conferencing," Dorsainvil said of the firm's methodology. "Baby boomers like conferencing … [so] don’t be afraid to introduce it if you have a client base that's older."

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Dorsainvil said she even has a couple of boomer clients just down the road that prefer to check in via video conferencing tools. "The technology I am using now, I was not using last year,” she said." I am living in constant change, but it's great because I have been transparent with my clients up front about what's to come.”

John Yankee, the founder of FJY Financial, said he suspects the future of the adviser world will focus more around the client portal as well as unforeseen ways of integrating technology into the client experience.

"It's about how you're going to engage the client so that they are having that seamless experience in terms of whether it's their money, their plan or how they're going to interact with you," Yankee said.

From the employee side, Yankee agrees with Griffith that working remotely has opened a whole new range of opportunities.

"It's amazing that [Griffith] can serve a client base mostly in South Carolina from Germany," he said. "It's about … figuring out how to utilize technology in that manner because it is now possible."

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