Don't rush back to physical meetings, clients may not want it

The last two years have changed some of the long-held ways FIs communicate with clients, sometimes for the better

Don't rush back to physical meetings, clients may not want it
Steve Randall

Two years ago, many Canadians rarely used online video platforms such as Skype and Zoom, but the pandemic changed that.

But as much as we crave a return to our pre-COVID lives, there are some things we’ve learned that make sense even after restrictions end, including client relationship management.

For some clients, meeting in person with their financial advisor is the only way it’s going to work, but for many others the flexibility of online meetings is attractive.

A recent study by the MQ Research Consortium and the Kansas State University Personal Financial Planning Program looked at how financial planner-client relationships have changed over the past 15 years.

It found that more than half of clients (57%) expressed a preference for virtual meetings even after pandemic meeting restrictions end, whether used exclusively (29%%) or with occasional in-person meetings (28%).

Financial planners are on board with this, with 8 in 10 intending to use virtual meetings at least some of the time, while 4 in 10 expect to do so most of the time.

Client anxiety

The research, backed by the Financial Planning Association, also revealed that planners greatly underestimated clients' financial anxiety.

While planners thought financial anxiety affected about half of their clients (49%) on average, nearly 3 in 4 clients (71%) reported experiencing financial anxiety at least half of the time.

The authors suggested that training for planners to help them recognise client anxiety would be beneficial for the productivity of meetings and could perhaps include a brief financial anxiety scale into the client intake process.

Other findings

Planners and clients were asked if the following quantitative topics were part of their conversations:

  • Planner communicates recommendations in terms clients can understand (84% planners / 51% clients agreed)
  • Planner explains pros and cons of investments recommended to the client (80% planners / 46% clients agreed)
  • Planner keeps clients well informed about investment performance, especially in down markets (69% planners / 38% clients agreed)
  • Planner gives clients as much financial information / education as desired (83% planners / 47% clients agreed)

Planners and clients were also asked if the following qualitative topics/issues were addressed during their conversations:

  • Planner is open to discussing what client values most in life (87% planners / 50% clients agreed)
  • Planner's financial recommendations are based on client's personal goals, needs, and priorities (90% planners / 49% clients agreed)
  • Planner communicates importance of considering all areas of life when creating a financial plan (81% planners / 47% clients agreed)
  • Planner contacts clients on a regular basis to see what changes in life may affect the financial plan (85% planners / 39% clients agreed)