Although many financial planners have converted to “virtual practices” in the past few years, the global pandemic has certainly pushed many more into this business model practically overnight. As more companies continue to postpone office openings, it’s time to assess your current situation and embrace the virtual financial practice.
Having a location-independent practice has many benefits:
- Reach clients outside your local area
- Lessen overhead costs
- Simplify and automate processes with technology
- Become “location-independent” (read: work from a beach house or mountain lodge)
While there are many benefits to running a virtual practice, there are a few things to consider when making this transition.
To run a successful virtual practice, technology solutions must be at the core of your business. As software has become more sophisticated, technology has the power to streamline and automate many daily tasks. Here are some of the most important technology considerations:
If your computer is slow or your Zoom connection is being interrupted regularly, it’s time to consider upgrading your internet plan or computer setup. If your family is also working or learning from home, this can quickly become a pain point. Having a computer that runs smoothly can make a huge difference in your day.
While some financial planners are still using paper records, you likely don’t want to keep sensitive information loose leaf around your home. Plus, sharing documents with team members and clients lends itself to electronic storage. When choosing a document storage system, consider secure, cloud-based options, like Google Drive or DropBox.
You’ll also want a secure process for prospects and clients sending you sensitive information. While some people are naturally cautious with sharing documents, some are all too eager to send their tax documents (social security number and all) over email!
Zoom has become a household name that I use in both my professional and personal lives. Be sure to choose a web conferencing service that makes sense for you and your clients. Be adaptive if other parties want to use other services (although we use Zoom at AdvicePay, I’m now well-versed in WebEx, Skype/Lync, Microsoft Teams, and even Adobe Connect).
For more tips on web conferencing, check out our other posts:
Electronic Document Signing
Mailing documents back and forth is sure to be a lengthy process that involves time and work to stay on top of. With electronic document signing, it’s easy for you and your clients to complete necessary paperwork.
If you don’t already have a software you love, AdvicePay’s integrated eSignature platform makes it easy to send and manage documents and payment requests all in one, simple step. Automated workflows notify signers when they need to complete documents and when they’re able to pay invoices.
Please note, eSignature is not available for Essential users and some Enterprise Advisor users.
You know your clients’ technology comfort level better than we do. Some client niches lend themselves to tech-friendly clients, while other planners may have a more technologically diverse client base. I recommend erring on the side of caution and having simple resources to help clients navigate the technology you’ll be using. Create a “welcome packet” that includes a list of technology clients will interact with and easy how-to resources. This could include:
- Document storage/sharing software
- Video conferencing
- Client portal access
Take advantage of pre-made resources that systems have to share with clients. It never hurts to do a quick scan of their website and see what resources they’ve already prepared.
One benefit of a virtual practice is growing your client base. You’re no longer tied to prospects that live within close proximity. Now is a great time to consider narrowing in on your niche and setting marketing and social media efforts to prospects across state lines.
If you’re working with team members virtually, it’s important to set expectations. Working from home lends itself to flexible work hours, which may even lead to a more productive team! While you may work with morning larks and night owls, if you expect team members to be available during a specific time (like 10 am – 3 pm), make that known!
I also recommend taking a look at your calendar for trends in meetings. Are there more internal meetings on your calendar than there were before stay-at-home orders went into effect? While it’s easy to pull your team together in a Zoom meeting to talk about issues and ideas, consider the best use of time. Zoom fatigue is real!
To keep our team engaged with each other as humans, our Managing Director, Lucy Robeson, will ask get-to-know-you type questions from time to time in Slack. This is a great opportunity to learn more about team members and stay up-to-date with what people have going on. Some of my favorite questions have been:
- You can only eat one for the rest of your life…do you choose breakfast foods, lunch, or dinner foods?
- What was your elementary school mascot? (If you were homeschooled, get creative!)
- What’s a state you’ve never visited but want to? Or, you can one-up all of us if you’ve been to all 50.
WORKING FROM HOME
If your inbox is anything like mine, it’s full of emails from companies sharing how to best work from home. The biggest takeaway I want to stress is setting boundaries between your work life and home life. If you’d like to dive deeper into this topic, check out our article, HOW TO WORK FROM HOME: TIPS FROM THE ADVICEPAY TEAM.
While many of us have been forced into the work-from-home lifestyle, this is an excellent opportunity to review business processes and modernize your practice. Consider how technology can improve your life (and your clients’ lives too) so you can continue to grow your practice, all from the comfort of your home.
Posted by Honor Randall
Honor is excited to help AdvicePay users make the most out of our platform to help expand their businesses. Having worked in the financial industry for five years, Honor has considerable experience assisting financial advisors as a paraplanner. When she’s not helping enterprises implement AdvicePay into their business, you can find Honor running, cooking, and exploring National Parks with her husband.