Financial advisors can survive the growing popularity of robo-advisor competitors if they strike a balance between conducting services in person and using digital tools to interact with clients on a greater scale, according to Michael Lock, president and chief operating officer with San Francisco-based Hearsay Social Inc.
“We’re still selling and servicing in an analog world,” said Lock at the fifth annual Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit in Toronto on Wednesday. “Unless we change this, people will say they might as well use a robo-advisor.”
Using technology to connect with clients in their preferred method of communication is one way to enhance service offerings. Lock shared his surprise that clients still have to call their advisors’ offices to make appointments instead of having the ability to book through advisors’ websites. And advisors are not taking advantage of video-conferencing tools that can save both advisors and clients time by not always having to meet in person, he said.
However, Lock’s message is that advisors and their firms must service their clients using all methods — including email, social media, phone calls and meeting in person.
Although advisors should become more comfortable using digital tools to connect with clients, they should also be willing to provide options. For example, not every client will want to meet virtually for every appointment. Even millennials, who are thought to be fully dependent on their smartphones, want the comfort of talking to someone in person because of their trepidation concerning investing. This comes from being witness to the global financial crisis and ensuing economic recession in 2008-09, said Lock.
One tool that will make it easier to develop client relationships further is social media, which provides an efficient way for advisors to learn more about their clients, Lock said: “If you get that information in [a traditional] way, you can’t learn that much about that many clients in order to provide value.”
By connecting with clients through social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, advisors can learn more about what matters to clients and whether they have experienced any important life events such as a new job or the purchase of a new home. These could be opportunities to reach out and send a message and find out whether the client requires a new service.
Trying to access this information through phone calls or emails is more time-consuming and advisors are likely to follow through on a small segment of their client base, Lock said.