Conventionally, meeting with a financial advisor meant meeting in-person, usually at the advisor’s office. With today’s technological advances, though, compounded by changes in social dynamics brought forth by the pandemic, meeting virtually (or mostly virtually) has become increasingly normalized, which has made it easier than ever before to accommodate more meeting time into busy schedules. But while the capacity to schedule more meetings has also given advisors the opportunity to spend time engaging more deeply with their clients, it has also meant that they may have less time to accommodate touch points with a broader range of their entire client base. One potential solution that can help advisors address this time crunch is to consider using asynchronous meeting strategies to help free up more of their time.
In our 81st episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss what it means to meet asynchronously, when it is appropriate to utilize, and how advisors can use asynchronous meetings to increase touch points for clients.
As a starting point, it’s important to recognize that while advisors may still need to devote more time to certain clients with complex financial circumstances who simply require more attention, newer clients often need frequent meetings only initially in the relationship. This is because in-person meetings early on provide a space for dialogue that lets new clients build trust and rapport with their advisor in the first place. But, once a certain level of trust is established, many clients often feel that frequent meetings are no longer necessary and may actually request fewer routine meetings; in fact, they may prefer communicating only on an as-needed basis to ensure that they stay on track with their financial plan.
Furthermore, while there may still be times when synchronous meetings are the most appropriate method of contact, they are not the only way to maintain the right level of touch points with a client. For instance, asynchronous meetings can sometimes be more suitable for situations between in-person meetings or video chat sessions, when a real-time connection is not entirely necessary (e.g., answering a question about how to find information on a platform). Using asynchronous meetings to quickly address lower-priority issues helps free up time for the advisor, as it generally takes less time to record a quick, informal video response than it does to write an email or to meet in person. Asynchronous meetings also don’t require the need to schedule or prepare for an in-person meeting, which can be time-consuming and simply unnecessary (especially when a 5-minute video clip can suffice).
Ultimately, the key point is that asynchronous meetings are not meant to replace all meetings; instead, they can be used to communicate more easily and quickly with clients when an actual meeting isn’t really necessary. While there will always be pressure to maintain a certain level of touch points with clients, advisors can rely on advances in technology that have made it easier and much more affordable for them to use asynchronous strategies (e.g., recording a quick video response) to respond to their clients’ needs without having to schedule meetings. And taking less time to schedule meetings means more time for the advisor to create more touch points and provide a better client experience. Because the more touch points an advisor can have with clients, the more opportunities there are to deepen and maintain long-term relationships with those clients!
***Editor's Note: Can't get enough of Kitces & Carl? Neither can we, which is why we've released it as a podcast as well! Check it out on all the usual podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, and Stitcher.
Kitces & Carl Podcast Transcript
Michael: Welcome, Carl.
Carl: Greetings, Michael. How are you?
Michael: I'm doing well. How are you?
Carl: I am fantastic. It's a beautiful sunny day in Utah. I wish it was not a sunny day, I wish it was snowing like crazy, but it's a beautiful, warm sunny day. So we'll take it.
Michael: It's funny just that whole weather dynamic. I was talking to someone the other day who went to school in Colorado. I was talking about how they used to... And went to College of Colorado. And they used to have snow days. The professor would call snow days for college. I'm like, "Why do you have snow days in Colorado? Why would you close for snow?" He's like, "Because the professor wanted to ski."
Carl: Oh, for sure. For sure.
Michael: Not because you close. I've been to the DC area, we close when there's two inches of snow on the ground, but snow means very different things there.
Carl: For sure. Now we just call those powder days and there's all sorts of rules that trigger them.
Carl: Yeah, for sure.
When To Use Asynchronous Meetings [01:02]
Michael: Well, for our discussion today, I wanted to actually call back an episode that we did a month or two ago, where we were kind of talking about virtual versus in-person meetings, what do clients want? Well, different clients want different things. But you had put forth this... I don't know. I think of it like option C. Like option A is in-person, option B is virtual. And you were like, "No, no, no, there's option C. And option C is you don't meet or you don't meet real-time." You meet as you'd put it asynchronously. Like you ask me a question because you... A client asks me a question because they email it in, you were like, "I record a response on Loom because I can just turn on my webcam and do it easily. And then I send my client back a link with a video and I answer their question." It's called face-to-face, virtual face-to-face, but it's not real-time conversation. Like I send them my reply and then sometimes that's enough or sometimes they follow up with me. But you kind of put out this idea of what does it look like to have asynchronous clients meetings? And we actually got a lot of responses back from advisors that said like, "I want to hear more about Carl's asynchronous meeting approach." And so I thought today it would be a great discussion of like, let's hear more about Carl's asynchronous meeting approach, and just like how would you actually do this with clients?
Carl: Yeah. No, I love that. I probably wouldn't think of it as like... I would think of it as just something to blend into option A or B, right? Like if you're meeting in person or you're meeting virtually, the question I would start asking, and I just think this is a valuable lens because look... And again, maybe we should clarify the type of client too. If you're working with busy professionals, which I just don't know anybody who's not busy, but I guess I do remember some of my retired clients who...
Michael: Because I had some retiring clients who are not busy. Like they...
Carl: Yeah. And this was maybe the highlight of the month or quarter. They like to come down.
Michael: Yeah. They come to our office. They print out forms, sign them, and bring them to our office in person because they just had nothing going on for the day. "You can e-sign it." "Oh no, I'll print it and drive it in." It's like, "It's okay, the internet works." "No, no, I'll drive it in." "All right, I get it, you're bored. Just come on in and we'll see."
Carl: Not those clients. But just about everybody else I run into is busy. Do you know what I mean? They just want things simplified. They just want it easier. They just want to get it done. I don't know if anybody else has had this experience, but everything you touch in our industry is like, really, it's going to take seven more things? I have to make two more phone calls. So if you have that lens on, I think it's just really interesting to... It's just a thought experiment, and I think you can... So I love kind of pushing the boundary of this thought experiment a little bit and seeing where the edges are of like, what if you just made a rule that you only had, whether they're face-to-face or virtual, like synchronous, you only had synchronous meetings when nothing else will do. Right? Because the only thing better than a short meeting is no meeting. Do you know what I mean? I would love to have a few... I don't know anybody who's like, "I wish I had more meetings on my calendar."
Michael: To me, this is one of the interesting dynamics in our world in particular because when I look at a lot of advisory firms, if I went to see an average advisor and I said, "What's the difference in what you give your top A clients versus the rest? What do you do that's super special and valuable for your top clients?" Almost every person I talk to their answer is...
Carl: Face-to-face meeting.
Michael: ...more and more face-to-face. My C clients are only allowed to come to my office once a year to see me, but my A clients, we meet with them four times a year, every quarter. I'm not trying to dunk on it. I did a version of this myself in the past. There's a weird thing when... I hear you, right? When you think of anything...I don't know, anything internal or business, for most people meetings are like, ugh. And as you said, the only thing better than a short meeting is no meeting at all. But then in the client world, we live in this world where literally the definition of allow... The definition of a low client is we don't meet with them often.
Carl: That’s the reverse...
How Meeting Asynchronously Can Mean Great Client Service [06:05]
Michael: So how are you supposed to elevate your client asynchronously if that means you meet less often with the people who are your top clients who you're supposed to meet more with? You're breaking a more fundamental value proposition here by saying, "What if we had no meeting?" It's just internally, internal office, no meeting, thumbs up. Client, no meeting, thumbs down.
Carl: Yeah. I remember when I was first taught that. That we had to have 18 touch points and there were for me. It was when I was at a big brokerage firm that will go in name that has a bull's symbol that's owned by a bank. I remember being taught...
Carl: ...some research that said, you had to have this many meetings. But I remember meeting with doc. I don't remember exactly who it was. We'll just call him Dr. Buck. Dr. Buck was this busy radiologist. He mountainbiked a ton. He rode. He raced his road bikes. His kids raced on teams. This guy was just busy. And I remember asking him because one of the questions I would ask in the first meeting was... And by the way, I'm not suggesting this for maybe early in the relationship. I'm just saying like ongoing service-wise. In the first meeting, one of the questions I used to ask was, "In an ideal world, how often would we meet?" And Dr. Buck said... He kind of leaned back in his chair and he thought for a minute, and he was like, "In an ideal world, we would meet never. We would only meet... In an ideal world, we would meet never. I like you and everything."
And I remember another client, I'll just call him Jeff. Jeff was a retired investment banker, had a bunch of money with me. And I invited him to something. I can't remember what it was. Like, "Would you like to come now? We'll have a meeting and then we'll go do this." And he is like, "Carl, I really don't want another person trying to organize my social calendar or putting obligations on." He's like, "That's not what I hired you for. I didn't really hire you to be friends. I didn't really hire for a social calendar. I hired you to get a job done."
Now, that's interesting. And I'm just trying to give this as context. I'm not saying I agree with it and I'm not saying all people are like that. Then the last little tidbit I'll tell you and then we'll get some nuts and bolts about how to do it. But my friend, Kevin, who had the corner office at another big... I worked at two big brokerage firms. And Kevin was the most boring guy ever. Kevin had seven ties, they were all maroon. He wore a white shirt every day. He was a recovering CPA, that's the way he put it.
Michael: Can you imagine somebody who just wears the same shirt over and over.
Carl: I know, so boring.
Michael: Got to be excruciating.
Carl: Especially if it doesn't have sunbursts on the shoulders. But he drove a Toyota Corolla, right? Made a silly amount of money. We all knew because we were at the brokerage. You knew what the grid was and whatever. And I remember asking Kevin once, I'm like, "Kevin, how do you build this thing?" And he was like, "We don't do any of that. We don't do those extra meetings. We don't do anniversary cards. We don't do the birthday cards. Rapid response to clients' questions. When somebody has a question, we respond." And I was like, "That's it?: And he's like, "Yeah. Consistency. We always invest. Everything else is consistent, but rapid response to client's questions."
So that's kind of the backdrop for this thought, is just what if you just had a set of lenses on that every time you thought, "Hey, let's have a meeting." And I'm not saying... Maybe you do have your annual meeting with your clients. That may be something that can't be done otherwise. There just maybe... The only thing better... We only have synchronous meetings when nothing else will do. That's kind of a rule we have. So what are the kind of things that you can only get accomplished in a synchronous meeting? When there's some back and forth. When there's some brainstorming. When there's decision tree stuff. Because you don't want to say, oh...
Michael: I feel like just a certain level of emotional stakes sometimes. There's all gravity of the situation, you know? Yeah. Like, "My spouse is sick. My spouse died." "Oh, let me send you a quick Loom video with my condolences." No, no.
Carl: For sure. And I want to be clear, I'm not suggesting that. But sometimes we're like, "Hey, I just inherited a little bit of money I wasn't expecting, should I pay down the mortgage or should I fund my profit-sharing account?" And sometimes we're like the default is, "Oh, come in, let's have a chat." And maybe that's the right answer for the business you're building. But I would suggest given... I think one of the huge blessings you could give somebody is less meetings. How hard would it be for you to record a Loom video or even a Screen Share? You could do the calculation, use one of Michael's favorite tools in Excel spreadsheet. You do the calculation. I know. You do the calculation, you do a Screen Share, you walk them through, and you send it. So let's just talk real quickly about that. I just think the speed at which you could reply and get decisions made. And I can't believe how many times I've said lately to my attorney that I work with for intellectual property stuff we do, setting up a... How many times I've just said, "Hey, could you just shoot me over a quick Screen Share?" Right? So that's philosophically... Should we talk a little bit tactically? But I know you have some pushback you want to throw around.
How Asynchronous Meetings Can Improve Client Communication And Response Time [11:52]
Michael: No. Well, I don't necessarily pushback. I don't know if I disagree. You've made the point, this is not about literally death of meetings, eliminate all meetings, clients should never have meetings because we can do all this asynchronously, right? As you made the point, okay, there's going to be some stuff, but just at the margin maybe let's be honest there are some things that we have meetings about that we don't have to have meetings. I thought you had a great example, right? Just like client asked the questions, the gut response is like, "Come on in, let's talk about this. Oh, thank God, something we can have a meeting about because I didn't even have anything to talk to you about for the upcoming meeting. So come on in for the meeting." It's that stuff where just we tend to have this gut response of, "This is a conversation, let's have a meeting." And a pause moment and say like, "Is it really? Does it really need to be? Is there another way to handle this?"
And so the piece to me that's interesting about how you're framing this. I'll speak from my end. Well, I'm a writing guy, right? It's why we have giant long full blog posts. I send really long emails. So if someone asked me a question like that, I'm all like, "Okay, I'm going to type out a response." That's my thing. I know a lot of people are not writing inclined or just are not fast typists, so that's a challenge. The piece to me that's so interesting about how you're framing this up. Really, it's the video. It's the, we'll give a shout out to Loom, but like there's Loom, bam, bam, a couple of platforms that do this. Email still takes time. And long thorough emails that are well written take more time. So this idea of if I just literally hit the little Loom button, my camera turns on, I talk for a few minutes to the camera. If I need to show something, I literally turn on the Screen Share and show it. It takes no longer than the time it literally takes me to say the words of the thing, which often this is going to be literally a few minutes to say a thing, and I hit send.
Michael: And I probably just cut my response, the time to respond by 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, depending on how long you write, 55 minutes if I was going to do a one-hour meeting and instead I got it all out in a 5-minute Loom. There's real power right down to... And it's what comes to mind. So on the one hand, some questions aren't going to get answered in a five-minute video and are going to require a follow-up. Okay, some won't, and that'll literally be the end. Some will and there'll just be another five-minute video. And even if it takes more time and I have to go back and eventually do a meeting, Sometimes I won't. And for every one meeting I cut out, I can now do 12 Loom video responses, which means a big deal, like just writ large across the year, right?
When we get back to the core of this that you had mentioned at the beginning like, what really retains clients? Frequency of communication, number of touch points, rapidity of response. Well, that stuff all gets faster when you do faster short bite responses and not everything is a lengthy email or at least a long time to write an email or let's schedule a meeting, how's a week from Tuesday and everything starts stretching out. So just there's a... To me, there's an interesting balance point in speed of response and frequency of response when you can just literally communicate so much faster by just saying, "Just going to turn on the camera for a couple of minutes and talk this response out to you."
Carl: Totally. Yeah. I love that. And remember, you writing that email is still asynchronous. You can do it whenever you want. You don't have to do 12 back and forth emails. One of the tipping points on this for me was I was trying to schedule a meeting with a friend of mine in London when I was living there, and I had 37 emails to get the meeting scheduled. And I know there's Calendly and all that, that's fine, use it, that's great. But I'm simply saying some of these could be handled really quickly. Now the one thing I want to make sure we're clear about is you just painted a really compelling argument for the benefit of doing this. And particularly around our own ability to scale and time and maybe work with more people or work less time, whatever's important to us. The thing I do want to emphasize is the benefit to the client. Can you think of being excited about another meeting, like driving there?
Michael: Well, my meetings are pretty awesome, so...
Carl: Yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure. But I think there's a fear in our...like if we don't meet with people. I think clients would accept it the opposite like, "Oh my gosh, we just got an answer."
Incorporating Asynchronous Meetings As The Client-Advisor Relationship Matures [16:59]
Michael: Honestly, I think you're right because it reminds me of that flow that comes with... I just feel it comes with basically every client. It's usually somewhere around the fourth or fifth year of we meet twice a year or three times a year, whatever it is, for a little bit more of a higher frequency meeting client. Or we're meeting regularly, we're doing the thing we're supposed to do where we meet regularly because it's valuable to meet regularly. I mean, I remember this for a particular client for the first time it came up, her name was Beth. Just probably, I don't know, like 15 years ago. I was reaching out to her for, "Hey, it's time to do your next meeting. We need to do a financial planning update." Because I was the one driving all the financial planning updates, so driving the conversation, "It's time to do the financial planning update. Looking forward to meeting you." And Beth sent this reply back that was something to the effect of, "Look, I'm feeling pretty good about where we are. I don't really have anything to talk to you about. So how about this, when something comes up in my life, I'll call you. And if you think something's come up that's actually urgent, you call me. But short of that, I don't really feel like we need to meet."
Carl: That's my favorite.
Michael: The gut response was like, "Oh my God, Beth's about to fire us. She rejected my meeting." I remember an immediate freakout response in her reply. And then in talking to someone else in the office, he's like, "Dude, she's not about to fire you, she's literally saying she likes working with you so much, she just trusts that you'll have the conversations you need to have when you need to have them. And short of that, we don't need to meet for the sake of meeting."
Carl: I love that.
Michael: And it was just this shift for me that then once I had the moment and saw it, now I was like, "Well, yeah, I'll be darned, basically like clockwork somewhere around the fourth or fifth year of every client meeting we seem to start getting to that point of like, 'Yeah, I don't know if we need to meet. I'm good. I don't really feel a need to meet. Let's just push it out a couple of more months. There's not really nothing going on right now.'" I mean, when there is, by all means, we're coming to meet. But just that conversation starts showing up of clients are like, "I think I'm good right now. I don't really need to come in." And just for every client who says that, now as I reflect about it, for every client who says that, there were several more who just...I'm sure they felt the same thing, they just didn't want to say no to the meeting because it's what you're supposed to do, right? Even as the client, it's like this is what you're supposed to do, you're supposed to be with your advisor. Your advisor keeps you reaching out to me, apparently, that's what you're supposed to do. I was like, "Oh my gosh, we're basically just stuck in this dance where we meet with each other because we both think we're supposed to meet for the sake of having a meeting even though nobody actually really wanted the meeting."
At least to me, it changes. I, at least, would still pound the table harder that I think more of that synchronous meeting is a lot more important in the first few years. There's just so much that still takes to really cement the relationship and the trust. Not to say I would never do an asynchronous thing, but just I feel like there's a shift in the meeting cadence as well where if I'm in the first year with the client, I'm like, "Hey, I just belted out a five minute Loom video." They're like, "Dude, I pay you a lot of money. I was expecting a meeting." And then somewhere out by year seven, it's like, "This is awesome. You just gave me a response in five minutes and we didn't have to have a meeting." It changes once you get to that trust line where we're not having meetings to build trust, we're just having meetings to communicate. Once we get to meetings to communicate, the answer is, "We don't maybe even need to have as many meetings because there are actually other ways to communicate. Let me just give you a five-minute video to give my feedback on this and you hear me talking and the intonation and all the stuff that you like from our interaction. We don't need a meeting for this."
Carl: Yeah. I love that. I had that happen all the time more often than not. And I think there's some deep-seated professional self-esteem issue that causes us to respond like, "Oh no." And so we started framing that, when we get the client to that spot, we've won. And we would tell the client... And by won, I don't mean we won and they lost. I mean we've achieved the thing. And we would tell the clients in the first meeting after signing up, like, "Hey, in about..." And we always said 18 to 24 months. "In about 18 to 24 months, congratulations you..." We called it our financial detox program. So, "Congratulations, you've just entered our financial pornography detox program." Right. And it lasts about 18 to 24 months, and in about 18 to 24 months you're going to realize a lot of the stuff you used to think mattered a lot, but that's like... Then when we would tell people, "We want you to get to the point where you don't have to worry about this stuff anymore. And when we get there, we'll know that we've been successful together." So we sort of painted that so that when it happened, it didn't seem like a let-down, it seemed like we got to the promised land.
But I just would repeat even early in the relationship like, "Hey, I've just got a quick question. Am I supposed to do this or this?" And instead of automatically replying with like, "Hey, assistant, will you please schedule a meeting with John? It just can be a phone call." Even that, what if you just said, "Hey, John, got your email." You reply via email, reply via Loom, reply... How much could you instead of... I don't think we appreciate... We appreciate it in our own lives, but I don't think we appreciate it in the clients' lives as much how much of a disruption it is to... Now that I've become allergic to calendars, you're almost the only thing that I put in my calendar.
Michael: I'm touched.
Carl: I didn't mean it that way. I just mean you've got things that you need scheduled. I've become allergic to calendars. I do most things like, "Hey, call me or send me a text. If I'm available, we'll chat. If I'm not, we'll circle back and find when we're available." Because having something in your calendar is like a whole thing. And so if it's a 15-minute phone call, unless there was some need for back and forth that couldn't be done, just think, I'm not even suggesting or advocating... Actually, I am. I'm just saying, just think could this be done asynchronously?
How To Provide A Level Of Professionalism In Asynchronous Meetings [23:31]
Michael: So one last question that I'll ask because it has to be out there on some people's minds. So I'll just frame it this way, how do you think about the professionalism of this? Do I need a really nice camera? Do I have to make my background really nice? Do I need to do my hair and makeup or whatever it is? How casual or not casual do you do this? I can envision a world that's sort of super casual. Maybe that's some advisors' style anyways. For others, it's like, "You know what, Carl, it's actually faster for me to write the email or schedule the meeting than it is to get into the mental state of looking great on camera. That's actually higher stakes for me." I feel there's a lot that some of us are going to put on ourselves of how to do this asynchronous video Loom thing and make it look "professional." I don't even know quite what that means. I'm curious how you think about that relative to showing well for clients?
Carl: Yeah. And so first of all, I never said asynchronous video, I just said asynchronously. How much work can we get done asynchronously? And so what I would do in that hierarchy is if I didn't feel comfortable using video, don't use video, right?
Michael: Just record yourself, send them an audio file? Because I think you can do Loom and just not turn the camera on.
Carl: I send a lot of audio and some people are like, "Nice voicemail. I got rid of that 20 years ago." Yeah, fine. So you can use...
Michael: Well, but that's the thing. So is my client going to grief with me because I sent out a “voicemail?”
Carl: Out of thousands of those that I've sent, I've had two people, one of which who's kind of a knucklehead. We actually both know. Anyway, I'm not worried about that response. But all I'm saying is if you're not comfortable with video, Screen Share is great. I've been in situations where the video wasn't going to be good, so I would just pick a really beautiful background. And I didn't have anything to Screen Share, so I would just pick a really cool picture and I would just say, "Hey, John, just wanted to send you this quick video but my camera wasn't working or whatever, so I thought you'd like to stare at this instead of my ugly mug." But Screen Share, right? If you got something to review, just don’t have the video on.
Michael: You know like, "Hey, I got a question about your report. I'm screen sharing it, let's talk about it as you can see on line seven, da, da, da."
Carl: Think of how many times you've picked up the phone and called. And again, picking up the phone is fine. You can also say, "Hey, I thought I'd just shoot this over to you. If you've got any more questions, please know I'm a phone call away. And if you want to come in and review it in person, I'm thrilled." This is not us trying to be more efficient necessarily, I think it's us trying...that's a fine part of it, but it's us trying to serve the client better. So I would think about that. And then the last thing I'll say I on that is, of course, you can... The second last thing. You can write the email if you don't want to do voice or audio. And then the last thing I'll say on it is we make that a much bigger deal than other people ever think.
I've gotten some really bad videos in my life from people with really... I don't know how good this looks, but this is my iPhone camera on a tripod, right? This is a $20 lav mic. It's the highest-rated lav mic. It's a $20 Rode Lav mic that plugs into the computer. Pretty decent audio quality. Pretty good camera quality. Could be better, but not terrible. Way better than the one on my...
Carl: ...computer camera. So I would just say the production quality concern, I really honestly believe... I know it's impossible to believe when you're first thinking about this because you put so much weight on it. It's impossible to believe. But I really believe we make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. It's not hard for you to get it set up. Now when I come in, I know I'm going to be doing video. So I just set it up right at the beginning. So I'm just cranking through emails and I hit send on some and then I'm like, "Oh, video, boom, go." I don't mess around.
Michael: All right. Awesome. Well, hopefully, it's just food for thought for everyone. Kind of an interesting direction on a new topic. So thank you, Carl.
Carl: My pleasure. Thanks, Michael. That was really fun.