Advisors should get used to conducting virtual meetings, because they’re unlikely to go away, according to Ken Haman, managing director of the AB Advisor Institute.

While virtual meetings have been possible for years, they were slow to catch on until the pandemic forced advisors to work from home and eliminated the possibility of meeting with their clients face to face. Now, as the world begins to reopen, the financial industry can’t afford to assume that things will return completely to normal, said Haman.

“As the size of screens and image quality increases, I think you’ll continue to see substantial adoption of virtual meetings,” he said in an interview with Financial Advisor. “Some clients will strongly prefer it and the quality of what the advisor can do in a virtual meeting for them, but I do think that some face-to-face meetings will continue to be a part of the business. Humans are humans, our behaviors are consistent over time. We adapt in the short term, but maintain consistent patterns in the long term.”

Forced to use the technology, advisors and clients are now both familiar and comfortable with virtual meetings, said Haman, adding that he was “surprised by how adaptive everybody was and impressed with how relationship-focused advisors were.”

Many advisors and clients will return to face-to-face meetings and interactions, wrote Haman in “Mastering The Virtual Practice: Why Your Clients Will Prefer Virtual Meetings,” a blog post published on June 5. But the concept of annual, semi-annual or quarterly face-to-face meetings between advisors and clients was already waning before the outbreak, he  noted. Advisors and clients both are probably less enthusiastic about restarting meetings than they are returning to dinner events, concerts and parties.

Haman gave a number of reasons whhy virtual meetings are likely a permanent part of doing business for advisors. For one thing, they’re more efficient for clients and advisors, easy to set up and they don’t require either party to travel in order to meet, which makes scheduling a meeting much easier.

But clients and prospects will also get more control over access to the advisor or salesperson, the duration of the meeting, and the focus of the presentation. Clients can decide when they’re available to work with advisors, instead of advisors proposing a time during their work day to speak with clients.

Clients also are able to dictate start and end times for virtual meetings. Whereas social mores might prevent them from ending a face-to-face meeting early, clients will be more likely to exit or disengage from a virtual meeting, Haman said.

“One of my children is a physician and she is quite busy,” he said. “She likes to call me to catch up when she’s driving. That way, when she gets to her destination, she can say ‘I’m done, I have to go.’ She’s not held hostage, it eliminates the possibility of small talk, and she really likes it that way because it gives her an enormous amount of control.”

Clients will also be able to reject meetings they deem as irrelevant, said Haman. Meetings must have a defined goal or purpose, and must focus on the client’s needs and preferences. Client attentiion may also be more likely to wander because virtual meetings can be recorded, replayed and reviewed.

Advisors will be forced to make their conversations relevant, or clients will tune out, said Haman. Clients are more likely to multitask and pay less attention in virtual meetings, turning to their social media ,texts or news feeds instead of paying attention to the advisor.

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