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“Everything is about customer experience.  You cannot build a successful business around the service that you want to provide, it must be built around the service that your clients want to receive.”  Guy Holwill, Chief Executive, Fairbairn Consult

A few months ago I read Richard Mulholland’s book Legacide, where he talks about innovation from the perspective of stopping doing things that no longer make sense rather than focusing on blue sky thinking.  The concept really resonated with me and last month I invited Richard to deliver the keynote address at our annual conference.  All I can say is – wow, what an address!

I introduced Richard with a real-life example relating to my mother.  She’s in her late seventies and lives in a retirement village and has a financial adviser named Ali.   If Ali had suggested a Zoom meeting before the pandemic my mom would have thought she was mad.  But the lockdowns happened, and everyone learned how to use Zoom and Teams and WhatsApp and House Party.  Today, my mom is happy to have a meeting on Zoom, and Ali no longer needs to drive 45 minutes each way for the meeting.

Since our conference, I’ve thought about this some more and I’m now even more convinced that some Zoom meetings make enormous sense.   From here on, please read Zoom as a term for any digital platform.

But before I go into examples, I’d like to state a few things that are important to me.  Firstly, I’m in complete agreement that some meetings need to happen face to face, even if that means that you must get in your car and drive for hours or onto a plane and fly across the country.  Secondly, I’m only a fan of technology where it makes my life easier by solving current, real-world problems.  And finally, the examples below are far from exhaustive and I’m sure that there are several things in your business that were perfectly normal a few years ago, which simply don’t make sense anymore.  The problem is that they have become “how we do things around here” so nobody even questions them.  As a result, you need to stand back and think carefully about why and how you do the things you do.

With that out the way, here’s how I think that Zoom meetings can improve the way you do business.

Do you see all your clients in their homes?  If yes, you should ask yourself how many other professionals do this?  Doctors, lawyers and tax consultants don’t do this because they sell time, and all the driving significantly reduces the billable hours in a day.  While you probably don’t bill time, the same principle applies because it kills productivity.  If you change some of your meetings to Zoom, you’ll also be able to increase the number of clients that you can see in a day.

Do all your clients drive to your offices?  While this is obviously great for you, have you thought about it from your clients’ perspective?  My wife and I see our planner together.  To go to his office requires us both to find a convenient time and then spend an hour or more in the traffic to see him.  It’s no wonder that most of our engagements with him are via email.  An interesting aside is that many people now work from home a few days a week.  Wouldn’t it be useful to filter your clients based on those with home offices close to you?

If you use Zoom, you can get a transcript of every meeting.  Not only can you copy-paste some of this into your record of advice, but you have a complete recording of the meeting if there is ever a dispute with a client.

But the real advantage isn’t any of these.  If we look at the advisers who thrived during the lockdowns, it was those who realised that they would not be able to get in front of new clients, so they doubled down on service to their existing clients – mostly via Zoom.  Instead of seeing clients once a year, they saw them two or even three times a year.  As a result of the improved service, the clients moved other assets to them and, more importantly, they referred friends, family and colleagues.

Think about that for a moment.  By not looking for new clients and merely upping the service to existing clients to protect a book – some advisers grew their books and increased their client base.  In most cases they did this by embracing Zoom – a technology that was only used by a handful of people before the pandemic but became normal for almost everyone during the lockdowns.

As an adviser, you need to decide which meetings need to be face-to-face and which should be done via Zoom.  As the number of Zoom meetings grow, you’ll be able to increase the number of client engagements, which will improve your service to those clients.  And as we have seen during the lockdowns, this will grow your practice in terms of AUM and clients.

Guy Holwill is the Chief Executive of Fairbairn Consult.  He is a qualified Civil Engineer and Chartered Accountant and has worked in financial services for more than two decades.  Guy is passionate about creating business models that thrive in the changing worlds of regulation and customer experience.

Fairbairn Consult is a licensed Financial Services Provider and a member of the Old Mutual Group.