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.