Mobileis giving financial advisors the opportunity to constantly keep in touch with their businesses and clients. But some are taking this newfound mobility a step further, ditching the office for the opportunity to meet clients face-to-face.
Bucking conventional wisdom that it is more professional to see clients in an office, advisors are getting out from behind their desks and hitting the road in order to provide clients with more a more hands-on service.
With the help of tools such as smartphone apps, tablets and laptops, advisors are transforming their cars, motor homes and even boats into mobile offices. The best part? Their clients love it.
Technology Can Set You Free
Mosaic Wealth Management founder Matthew Hudgins is one advisor who has embraced the benefits of a mobile existence. Although Hudgins still rents office space from two other advisors a couple days a week, he says most of his client meetings are at coffee shops, restaurants, and clients’ homes and offices.
“I can work from anywhere that I have Internet access,” Hudgins says. “I guess the reality is you could work from anywhere.”
While technology allows advisors to connect with clients more than ever, Hudgins says it is for that very reason that many of his clients appreciate personal visits. “I like getting out because I think it leads to more,” Hudgins says.
“It’s the experience, it’s the relationship, it’s the knowledge,” he added, saying that this approach allows him to give clients what he calls the “Ritz Carlton” service.
A majority of Hudgin’s business is based in Atlanta, but his $60 million practice also includes clients in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia. To reach those clients, Hudgins will hop in the car and drive to them, using his Internet-capable devices to keep an eye on the rest of his business. Between his iPad, iPhone and laptop, Hudgins says he can service 90 percent of his clients’ needs.
“I can be visiting a client in Tampa, Fla., and do some work for an Atlanta client at the same time,” he says. “You have some focus days where you go 100 mph."
The Personal Touch
Like Hudgins, Raymond James advisor Shams Deitrick says that he believes financial advisors’ businesses depend on relationships, so travelling to see clients in person gives him a “home field advantage.”
Following advice a mentor gave Deitrick early in his career, the Walnut Creek, California-based advisor make a point to visit a majority of his clients in their homes during late afternoon and evening meetings.
Although the advice flies in the face of many in the business who believe the practice of visiting clients at home is unprofessional, Deitrick says he has never had an issue, adding that the home visits present unique opportunities to get to know clients better.
“You will learn something that will have not come out if visiting in an office,” Deitrick says. For example, many times advisors will see an odd photo of a boat or a vacation home that could be useful in creating financial plans.
Deitrick’s practice—which has approximately 100 clients with $200 million in assets under management—spans a dozen states with clients in Washington, D.C., Texas and even one client in England.
In order to keep in touch with his far-flung clients, Deitrick flies or drives to visit these clients quarterly or semi-annually, meaning that four to six weeks of every quarter are usually heavily scheduled for travel.
Yet these travel weeks are easier now with the tablet and smartphone that he carries with him. The tablet has been especially helpful, he says, because the device drastically improved efficiency; it allows him to log into applications and programs that were previously only available on his desktop.
When a client used to have a question while Deitrick was on the road, he would have to take a few hours or a day to get back to them once he was back in his office and able to log into his office computer. “Now I can answer that immediately,” he says.
“I’d rather be meeting with clients than behind a desk,” Deitrick says, adding that he may not have the opportunity to get that client if he has to drive to see his advisor.
Your Desk Can Be Anywhere
While technology is giving advisors the opportunity to meet with clients face-to-face, a Santa Rosa, California, advisor actually uses technology to spend more time on the road.
For almost twenty years, Wedbush Securities advisor Michael Sims and his wife have traveled with their dogs aboard a 36-ft. motor home for a few months every year.
“The beauty of mobility is that I can travel more,” Sims says, noting that he has worked from everywhere from a cruise ship in the Mediterranean to isolated campsites in Wyoming.
In order to keep in touch with clients and maintain his practice, Sims uses a laptop, smartphone and a tablet while on the road, as well as a backup smartphone and laptop. It should be seamless for clients to contact him, Sims says.
“I’m almost always parked where I at least have access to cable TV… and Wi-Fi capabilities,” he says, noting that most RV parks have these basic amenities these days.
But this was not always the case. Sims recalls times in the early 1990s, most had lousy dial-up connections. Often he would have to operate out of the site’s camp office with other campers coming in and staring at him.
“When I first started traveling this way, I was the only one doing it,” Sims says, “But now everyone’s connected.”
Sims says that he likes to drive on the weekends or during the afternoon, when the market is closed, but occasionally he’ll need to drive between 6:30 and 1 p.m. Pacific time. On those days, Sims calls his assistant to enter transactions or pulls off to use his 12” Samsung tablet.
Travelling all over the country also allows Sims to occasionally meet with clients while on the road, visits that Sims believes really “enhance the relationship.” With clients in 11 states, including the Midwest and Southwest, Sims spends time meeting clients while taking advantage of some amazing locales.
“Any trip I take, I try to incorporate the opportunity to meet with clients,” he says, noting that several times a year he visits a leading client in Silicon Valley when heading to Southern California.