The majority of advisers are concerned that ‘virtual’ meetings and a lack of face-to-face contact is becoming a barrier to developing new client relationships.
The use of video conferencing has surged since the Covid-19 pandemic, with 67 per cent of advisers saying they now use it more frequently.
But while advisers can cite some benefits, three out of four (73 per cent) concede that a lack of face-to-face interaction can inhibit the development of client relationships, and prevent them winning new business.
This adviser research on new working practices and technologies was conducted by Aegon. It also found the vast majority of those surveyed expect to continue relying on these video conferencing tools, even as the health crisis reduces and restrictions on social distancing are lifted. In total just 6 per cent of advisers expect their use of video conferencing to diminish as the coronavirus pandemic recedes.
When contacting existing clients, video conferencing has a strong place within the advisers’ toolkit, according to this research. But it is less rated when it comes to acquiring new clients.
The research found that 71 per cent of advisers state it is important to meet prospects face-to-face while 81 per cent say clients prefer face-to-face contact.
However despite these limitations almost half of those surveyed (45 per cent) said video conferencing helped them be more productive, with 75 per cent adding that there were cost benefits, presumably due to the reduction in travel times and meeting lengths.
And this spare capacity will have been beneficial for the 31 per cent of advisers who have reported an increase in client enquiries above normal levels, since the start of the crisis.
The research showed that advisers were aware that a virtual meeting solution is not a one size fits all approach and there were particular barriers with some clients. More than eight out of 10 advisers (82 per cent) report report having clients who aren’t tech savvy enough to use video conferencing.
Aegon chief distributing officer Ronnie Taylor says: “Restrictions triggered by coronavirus outbreak has turned the planning profession on its head, with advisers and their clients being nudged towards new behaviours and technologies.
“Technology has offered an alternative means of communication in lockdown, but once we’re unhindered by social distancing restrictions, it will be interesting to see if these changes become permanent.
“Our findings show that video conferencing isn’t suited to everyone and meeting in a virtual world, can’t replicate meeting in person.
“In particular when it comes to developing potential new client relationships, picking up on people’s body language is one of the important aspects of a client meeting as is the rapport that comes from face-to-face contact. It’s clear that this is just one of the many challenges that advisers will have to overcome in the new environment in which we’re all operating.”