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The fall of the face-to-face client meeting

Virtual meetings are becoming the more common choice of advisors and clients.

For financial advisors, face-to-face client meetings are becoming fewer and farther between.

“I think it’s a combination that we’re all busy and also people are more comfortable with other forms of contact,” Valerie Porter, president of SummitView Financial LLC in Indianapolis, told ThinkAdvisor.

A survey conducted by Peak Advisor Alliance and Cerulli Associates found that 81 percent of survey participants report meeting with clients only once or twice per year. Porter, who also heads the FPA’s Research and Practice Institute, said a report the FPA will be releasing in early July called “Trends in Client Communication” found similar findings.

In lieu of individual client meetings, advisors are hosting more frequent client and social events, getting proactive about email and newsletter distributions, and making regular contact via social media, according to the survey.

“How we communicate is driven by the client,” said Ron Carson, CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group and founder of the Peak Advisor Alliance, in a statement. “We’ve found clients want frequent, targeted communication such as trade notifications that deliver relevant information about their personal investments at the time it is happening. But advisors must listen to their clients to determine when and how they want to communicate.”

Porter added that when clients are asked what type of meeting they want, many won’t choose face to face.

“I am definitely finding clients are opting for the virtual meeting more frequently than they did, but then again I’m offering it more,” said Porter, who finds herself often doing more web-based contact for meetings.

But that’s not to say face-to-face meetings should be entirely done away with.

“I think it depends on the subject and objective of the meeting," Porter said. "There are times when face-to-face meetings are more suitable, obviously if you’re doing paperwork.”

Porter has also noticed that her older, less tech-savvy clients will often insist on a face-to-face meeting.

Porter’s younger clients, though, often opt for the virtual setting.

“As more young clients start financial planning … I think communication would definitely change to where we’d be doing things much more virtually,” she said.

The Peak Advisor study, conducted in February and March as part of Cerulli’s annual advisor surveys, surveyed financial advisors on various trends and best practices for growing and improving business. Key takeaways from the survey included the importance of regular client communication, investing in technology and being transparent about fees. The full survey will be available June 30.

Peak Advisor Alliance, Cerulli and the FPA aren’t the only ones taking notice of client communications. As our sister site, ThinkAdvisor, previously reported, a Pershing poll found that advisors need to find ways to improve how and when they interact with clients.

Many advisors reach out to clients by phone when their investments go down, 68 percent, or the markets go down, 58 percent, while only 39 percent call when the markets go up.

Originally published on ThinkAdvisor. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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