Newcastle planner Adele Martin says she was initially warned off making her business, Firefly Wealth, completely virtual. Looking back, she now takes her greatest lesson from the experience.
“The biggest thing is be careful who you take advice from,” Martin said on a webinar hosted by the Financial Planning Association’s parent body, the Financial Planning Standards Board. “If I had of listened to a lot of the older advisers that I spoke to I would have never have gone virtual.”
Speaking to over 1,000 registered CFP holders across the globe in a session hosted by FPA chief executive Dante De Gori, Martin said she was told “many, many times” that people won’t trust advice presented by an adviser unless it’s in person. “It’s simply not true,” she said.
Martin explained how the initiative to take her business online came about when the accountant she was sharing an office with vacated the space. While looking for an alternative office she started conducting meetings online.
“I wish I could say I was some sort of visionary and did it with a plan but I didn’t, it sort of happened by accident,” she recalled.
Martin initially ran a hybrid model, thinking that her older clients would be reluctant to switch to video conferencing. Little did she know, these clients were also keen to avoid the hassle of travel and parking.
“I made a mistake in believing they wouldn’t want to go virtual,” she admitted. “I thought for a while I would only do it for my new clients and not my existing. It wasn’t until I started offering to do them virtually that I realised they preferred virtual.”
As more and more of her clients opted for the virtual world, Martin realised it was the way to go.
“I had a serviced office I was using for some time and then I just thought… I’m going all in,” she said.
Faith in the solution
Martin said the second thing she would say to advisers thinking about going 100 per cent virtual would be to only do it once they genuinely believe it will benefit both parties. If the adviser has faith in the solution, she explained, it becomes a lot easier to translate the benefits to clients.
“The adviser had to believe in it themselves and they have to believe that it’s better for the client,” she said. “If they don’t believe it how were they going to sell it?”
Aside from the obvious time and travel considerations, Martin said advisers can explain to clients that they can record zoom meetings and then use them as a reference tool. If the client is a couple they can both attend from different locations as well, she added.
“You start to stack these benefits to the clients and it makes it an easy transition,” Martin says.
She cautioned advisers against forcing clients to accept a virtual medium, however. “Don’t make it forever, say you want to try it and if they don’t like it they can go back the other way,” she advised. “People don’t always immediately want to be locked in.”
For the advisers themselves, the benefits extend beyond reduced expenses. Martin said going virtual also meant she had an infinitely broader range of talent to canvas.
“Where I am in a regional town it’s quite hard to find staff, so I could then also expand my team virtually as well; largely other mums that want flexibility,” she said.
Advisers can also store their zoom meetings as file notes, but Martin said that became “a bit too long” for her.
There are downsides to going virtual, Martin admitted, and it’s not for every adviser. Staff can become disconnected, she said, but this can be allayed with online catch-ups that include virtual games and Friday afternoon zoom drinks.
Time zones can also be problematic for interstate clients, she said, “but it’s not unmanageable”.
Telling yourself the tech story
Martin’s third big tip for advisers going virtual is to not get hung up on the technology.
“Don’t think you need to have all this fancy technology,” she told the advisers. “It’s not that hard.”
Martin recalled a shift in perception that changed the way she approached the technical side of going virtual.
“Years ago I was told that I wasn’t good at technology, and when you have someone telling you something you tend to believe it,” she said. “So I worked on my mindset.”
Change the story you tell yourself, Martin said. Instead of thinking that each step in the process of adaption is hard, tell yourself that it’s simple and fun. Acknowledge that taking on a skill or adding a new piece of software to your process is an opportunity to learn and grow.
“It’s all about the story you tell yourself,” she said.
Martin also eschews the use of social media to promote her business, and explained to the group how one piece of content could be leveraged across multiple platforms.
“If I do a facebook live webinar I can strip that audio and that becomes my podcast. That can then become my blog post or an Instagram post. That can also become a meme [if] they can take a quote out from it and use it,” she said. “I’ve now trained my PA to do all that.”