We know that the financial services industry is evolving rapidly. It was evolving, of course, pre-pandemic, as advisors struggled to adapt their businesses to the challenges of developing relationships with a younger generation set to be beneficiaries of the Great Wealth Transfer. But, as we slowly transition to what we hope will be a post-pandemic future, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle with regard to the service and experience options millennials (and, really, everyone else) will expect moving forward. Your kids are going to expect it – and so are their grandparents.
In Redtail’s Working Remotely 2020 Survey we were happy to see nearly 86% of respondents were at least somewhat prepared to work from home in terms of their technology when the pandemic forced them to do so. The industry was already trending this way, and Redtail has always preached workplace mobility while developing solutions to support that, so, while those results weren’t exactly shocking to us, they did reinforce our belief that we had the ship pointed in the right direction.
Still, while technologies proved largely resilient in the face of pandemic-related challenges, our survey also revealed that processes remained largely unchanged as well. As we all know, Zoom usage skyrocketed, representing both a technological shift as well as a process shift in terms of client communication for some points of contact. But, who was being talked to and what was being talked about remained remarkably consistent with what was transpiring prior to COVID.
The pandemic confirmed our adaptability
While the past year created unforeseen challenges for so many, moving forward advisors should take advantage of the opportunity to incorporate what they have learned from their experiences and embrace this as a natural pivot point. There’s no denying that early on during the crisis it was largely about showing you could still provide service to your clients when limited to mostly virtual contact. Now though, as advisors have embraced the change elements that worked, it’s time to address other challenges that many offices have thus far avoided.
Much of what needs to change centers around who you are talking to and how. Many advisors have been slow to engage with younger generations who are fully comfortable using modern technologies for all types of interactions, both personal and professional. It’s essential that advisors take a hard look at their processes and their technologies to determine how they can best be a meaningful presence in younger clients’ lives.
Continuing to offer virtual meetings, at least if that’s what a particular prospect or client desires, is pretty much a no-brainer. We can’t be complacent though; seeking ways to improve upon virtual interactions so that clients continue to find value in them is a must.
Similarly, fully embracing texting as a method of communication where appropriate should be high on your radar if you haven’t already added that capability to your practice. Doing so will give you greater access to younger generations who treat texting as their primary form of communication; it will also open up more straightforward channels for communicating simple items like meeting confirmations with older clients, who have embraced texting at this point as well.
Data points breed communication opportunities
In our 2019 survey we learned from over 3,200 wealth management professional respondents that “less than 6% consider any client characteristics outside of age, income, gender, or education for the purpose of crafting tailored client content”. I cannot emphasize this enough: we are SO MUCH MORE than those four things as individuals.
Quite simply, it’s going to take more effort. Offices are used to saying “here’s what we’re doing, here’s where we’re invested”; but, knowing and caring about people on a deeper level is what’s going to lead to greater successes with millennials. As a millennial myself I can tell you part of what drives this is the desire to “be seen”. For advisors, getting to that level of knowledge that strengthens your relationships and allows you to communicate with younger generations in a way where they feel seen may mean changing up some of your processes in terms of both gathering and recording client data points.
My best advice on that front is to use your CRM to track every bit of info you learn about your clients and prospects, recognizing that people are often most passionate about the very things that are most personal to their lives. When you care about your clients, your CRM can augment your ability to express that in a lot of different ways. You can look over the information you’ve recorded prior to or during interactions with each client to refresh your memory about who they really are and reconnect with them on those things they are passionate about when organic opportunities to do so arise.
Connecting Today with the Future
In 1985’s Back to the Future, one of the more iconic scenes features Marty McFly (portrayed by Michael J. Fox) strapping on a Gibson ES-345 and tearing through Johnny B. Goode as he introduces a 1955 school dance crowd to rock ’n’ roll. Reacting to their confused stares at the conclusion of his performance, Marty says, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.”
Fun fact: the aforementioned model of Gibson didn’t actually exist until 1959. My point in bringing this up isn’t to condemn the filmmakers for the historical inaccuracy or to argue this mistake merits a franchise reboot to set the record straight: instead, I believe this bit of blockbuster trivia illustrates two key ideas to bear in mind when you are attempting to transform parts of your business in order to embrace the future. The first: sometimes you’re going to make mistakes. The second and more important idea: the future is always here before we know it and pretending otherwise won’t get us where we want to go. Or, as put another way in a popular Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”