(Dow Jones) A big chunk of a financial advisor's life is spent in quarterly client meetings, those periodic sessions that are often equal parts portfolio review and tea and sympathy--at least when the markets are tanking.
But a growing number of advisors are rethinking the need for such meetings, for reasons that go beyond the challenges of working with clients scarred by the recent financial crisis. Even in the best of times, these advisors argue, meetings are more time-drains than tools for productive communication. So they are making use of different models--and different schedules--to connect with clients.
"It's all about leveraging time," says Mark Matson, founder of Matson Money, a Cincinnati investment firm that works with advisors throughout the country on expanding their practices.
Matson encourages advisors to ditch quarterly one-on-one meetings altogether in favor of monthly group sessions that are more like a lively but structured series of classes. The program, designed by Matson and available to advisors for a fee, encompasses four years' worth of such sessions (a total of 48), covering a range of such investment topics as asset allocation and risk mitigation.
Matson knows that the group approach may seem less personal, but he argues that it actually boosts investor confidence and morale by helping clients see themselves as part of a community. By contrast, the one-on-one client meeting may encourage panic and, in turn, reckless decisions, he says. Clients reason that if they've come to see their advisor, they must make use of the opportunity, especially in a bad market.
"People think activity equals control," says Matson.
In investing for the long term, "control" often should mean leaving portfolios alone. Meeting on a quarterly basis can seem to conflict with this idea, a point noted by advisers outside of Matson's circle.
It "seemed to me that we were sending mixed messages," says Michael M. Eisenberg of Eisenberg Financial Advisors, a Los Angeles firm.
While Eisenberg doesn't follow Matson's monthly group meeting format, he has upped his phone time and email communications with clients in place of quarterly meetings. Other advisors adopting a similar philosophy say they've tapped into social online media and video chats as alternatives to the one-on-one meeting.
This is not to say these advisors avoid clients at any cost. "Now we meet in person on an as-needed basis, but at least once a year," says Eisenberg.