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Why Advisors Need Digital Documentation

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From social media and information overload, to the regulatory front and fearful clients needing handholding, financial advisors are constantly faced with more challenges. Add to that wealthier clients now expecting to receive more communication than in the past, and an advisor can get buried before they know it. 

Many of the industry’s leading advisors such as Barron’s a-list “regular” and Financial Planning “influencer” Ron Carson tell us that technology is not an expense, it’s an investment. “Bad technology can expose you and leave you vulnerable, while good technology can help promote and propel you,” Carson told me. (Full disclosure: Carson is a client of my firm, Impact Communications.)


At a recent marketing seminar Maree Moscati, chief executive of mobile dictation service provider Copytalk, lead a session focused on how technology can shore up one of advisors’ biggest vulnerabilities: documenting client conversations with good text-based notes. (Full disclosure: Moscati is also a client of my firm.)

A mobile dictation service allows advisors to submit their client notes directly via an app on their phone and have the notes securely transcribed and delivered back to them via email or directly to the CRM system.

This is a win for advisors on many fronts. By using a mobile dictation service, the advisor is now free to actively participate in the meeting. Advisors who are not tied to a pen and paper won’t miss those subtle nuances in client meetings like body language, facial expressions and other non-verbal clues that inform us. 


Here are some tips Moscati offered to get the most out of your notes from client meetings:

1. Pay attention to visual cues and vocal nuance.  During client meetings, it’s not uncommon for advisors to frantically juggle interacting with the clients, observing their behavior and responses and capturing everything in notes at the same time. What are they missing while multitasking? Probably, quite a lot. That sideways glance between spouses, a shrug of the shoulders or quick grimace speaks volumes and can help the advisor not only understand the total dynamic, but offer better guidance and advice, too.

2. Find a way to take some basic notes, but don’t get lost in the weeds. Some advisors have found that inviting an assistant or junior advisor into client meetings is a good solution, while others try to do it all themselves. The best advisors take a few notes but focus primarily on the clients’ body language, facial expressions, word choice and vocal inflections. Many have decided that having an assistant in the room or recording the entire conversation would not be perceived well by the client. Instead, after the client meeting ends, they immediately dictate their key observations via a secure telephone line or a mobile app so that a professional transcription service can provide a typewritten record back to the advisor.

3. Ditch the paper but use a secure, encrypted system. Most advisors will agree, handwritten notes are the devil. Post-meeting there are the challenges of getting the notes into a legible form, and filing and retrieving the notes. It’s a cumbersome and illogical system, yet advisors continue to need a push to move towards a technology-based solution.  The best mobile dictation and transcription services will encrypt the notes and deliver them via email. Some will even place them right into the advisor’s CRM. If you are considering mobile dictation services, be sure to look into how the notes are handled because some providers send your recordings to home-based employees, which could lead to privacy challenges.

4. The palest ink is better than the strongest memory.  With short-term memory, you lose 2/3 of what you hear after 24 hours. As a financial advisor juggling many competing priorities, that is a scary statistic. Imagine your horror when you sit down a few days after a client meeting to review the file, and can’t remember what your notes mean. Mobile dictation can help advisors with things they need to remember and document.


By cutting ties to traditional notes, advisors are freed up to quickly capture kid’s names, family information and anything else that can build rapport with clients. Advisors become active listeners, which helps the client know they’ve been heard and will help them feel better in the meeting. Clients that feel good tend to be more satisfied, and well, you know how this goes . . .  Good notes equate to good advice, which helps you present yourself as a trusted financial advisor. 

Client perception aside, mobile dictation makes business sense as well. By keeping handwritten notes, advisors set themselves up for a state of constant disorganization looking for lost or misfiled notes. The national average of lost/wasted hours is 150 per year. Factor in the wasted time of your staff regarding mishandled notes, and the numbers can be staggering.

What’s more, in today’s regulatory environment, advisors are continually asked to document more and more information. Good documentation helps protect you and your practice. “In the litigious world in which we live, it is essential to document each contact with a client or prospect,” said seminar host and financial advisor marketer Bill Good.

“Smart business practices are key to success. Just changing how you handle notes can be a real game changer,” Moscati said. “Building a client-friendly brand takes time. By embracing practices that streamline your business, you free yourself up to manage your relationships and, ultimately, build your brand as an advisor.”

Marie Swift (@marieswift on Twitter) and her team at Impact Communications have been working with independent financial advisors and allied institutions for twenty years. While the tools have changed, the communication essentials never do. Learn more at www.ImpactCommunications.org.

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