Financial Planning 2.0: What is a Remote Financial Advisor?
Up until the very recent past, the vast majority of financial advisors used essentially the same service model, which consisted of working with a client base sourced from their immediate geographic area. These financial advisors would then meet with their clients in person, usually at the financial advisor’s office, to discuss the client’s financial planning needs and goals. Notwithstanding the occasional email or phone call, the majority of communications between a financial advisor and his or her clients took place during meetings—meetings that consisted of actually sitting down with clients in a “real” face-to-face (not to be confused with FaceTime!) conference.
But the times, they are changing—and rapidly so! Converging technologies and innovation in the financial services sector of the financial planning industry are changing the traditional boundaries and norms for financial advisors. Currently, there’s a growing trend towards remote financial advisor services. More and more financial advisors, especially those who have the additional freedoms that come with being an independent financial advisor, are working as remote financial advisors (which are also sometimes referred to as a virtual financial advisors).
So what is a remote financial advisor?
First things first, do not confuse remote financial advisors with robo-advisors. Even though both heavily rely on technology, they are most definitely distinct types of financial advisory service providers. As discussed in the previously posted blog on this site entitled “Humans vs. Robots: The Value of Using a Financial Advisor Over a Robo-Advisor”, a robo-advisor is an online wealth management/investment portfolio management service that provides users with algorithm-based, automated investment advice and recommendations without the use of a human financial advisor. Robo-advisors offer negligible if any human interaction and instead offers portfolio management using computer models based on the user’s responses to its basic online goal and risk assessment tools and questionnaires.
On the other hand, a remote financial advisor is a financial advisor who works virtually (mainly through online interfacing) with his or her clients. Meetings—from introductory sessions to annual reviews—can be conducted via video conferencing and other types of client communications can be handled via phone calls or emails so that no physical “actually in the same room” client meetings ever have to occur. If you never have to meet your clients for face-to-face meetings, your practice can be location independent—meaning you don’t need to have a physical office but rather you can work from anywhere you have the requisite technology and can communicate with clients from all over the world so long as they also have the requisite technology.
Being a remote financial advisor does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
The idea of being a remote financial advisor neither has to be an all-or-nothing proposition nor does it have to be a drastic service model switch. Being a remote financial advisor can be gradual and scalable. Financial advisors can simultaneously offer traditional face-to-face options as well as virtual/remote options for communicating with their clients.
Some remote financial advisors, who currently serve their clients in person at their offices, can gradually transition willing clients to a remote financial advisor model. In such scenarios, the financial advisor should focus on first beginning to work with some of his or her existing clients on a virtual basis. Once you have worked with some of your existing clients on a virtual basis (the degree of which will depend on each client’s specific preferences), you can then focus on recruiting new clients who you will then interact with on a virtual basis.
Keep in mind that some clients may be completely resistant to any virtual interfacing; some clients may want to have the best of both worlds—where they sometimes meet with you in person at your office (perhaps for their annual review) and then sometimes “meet” with you virtually via video conferencing for other issues; and finally, some clients may fall in love with the time-saving and efficiency benefits of virtual meetings and will see no need to ever come into your physical office again and will instead want to establish a completely remote/virtual client-advisor relationship with you.
There are also some financial advisors who know they want a remote practice from the very beginning of starting up their practice—these financial advisors have never met most of their clients in person and operate their full advisory practice almost completely online. These financial advisors don’t need to have a traditional, permanent office and can “meet” with clients from anywhere on a solely remote/virtual basis, so long as they have access to a reliable internet connection, video conferencing programs (such as Skype or GoMeeeting.com), and cloud-based file storage. The advisor’s specific physical location doesn’t matter, as this location is completely independent of the client’s physical location at the time of the meeting.
To learn even more about remote financial advisors, specifically the advantages and disadvantages of working as a remote financial advisor, be sure to check back soon on the Summit Brokerage Blog for a new blog post on this topic.
About Summit Brokerage Services
Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. is part of Cetera Financial Group®, a leading network of independent retail broker-dealers. Summit Brokerage provides a broad range of securities brokerage and investment services to primarily individual investors. Summit Brokerage also sells insurance products, predominantly fixed and variable annuities and life insurance through its subsidiary, SBS Insurance Agency of Florida. Summit Brokerage also provides asset management services through its investment advisor, Summit Financial Group, Inc.
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