Face time just as important to younger clients

When figuring out how to best engage with clients, age is only one factor that should be taken into consideration

Dec 22, 2015 @ 11:00 am

By Alessandra Malito

Contrary to popular belief, young clients want face time with their financial adviser —not just FaceTime

Fifty-four percent of clients between the ages of 18 and 44 want to communicate with their advisers face to face. That's the same level of interest seen face-to-face interaction seen in clients between the ages of 45 and 54 and higher than the 48% level seen in clients between the ages of 55 and 64, according to a study released last week by the Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn.

In figuring out how to best engage with clients, the age of the clients is only one factor that should be taken into consideration, said Mike Byrnes, president of adviser consultancy firm Byrnes Consulting in Kingston, Mass.

“Age is kind of the 101 version, but it should morph into customization,” said Mr. Byrnes, who said advisers should also take into account a clients' level of comfort with social media platforms.

First and foremost, advisers should simply ask their clients how they would like to stay in touch with them.

Advisers should first understand what clients want to hear, and then use their preferred methods of communication to deliver that information, said Julie Littlechild, an FPA board member.

(More: 4 simple principles to communicate to clients)

For example, a client may enjoy her adviser sharing relevant articles on Twitter, but if her adviser is sending along pieces unrelated to her circumstances, that client won't be engaged. An adviser's best bet is to figure out what would be relevant to the client first and then send along this information through the preferred communication vehicle.

“When we talk about client engagement, the fundamental issue we talk about is understanding what kind of information will be engaging and going deep to understand their needs and fears,” Ms. Littlechild said. “How you communicate that then becomes a matter of preference.”

The study,“Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media,” underlines clients' desire for education, on or off social media, Ms. Littlechild said.

Communication preferences by age
AGES 18-44 AGES 45-54 AGES 55-64 AGES 65+
Relevant articles 33% 56% 55% 36%
Adviser blog 23% 44% 16% 13%
Information shared with professional networks 23% 40% 10% 5%
In-person workshops or seminars 54% 56% 48% 43%
Online workshops or seminars 40% 56% 37% 8%
Source:Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn

“When you look at what engages clients, education is one of the main things,” she said.

Jonathan Swanburg, a financial adviser with Tri-Star Advisors in Houston, Tx., said he often hears the stereotype that younger clients spend all of their time on social media, but he doesn't see that. The study also found only 23% of clients ages 18-44 prefer communication shared through professional networks, such as LinkedIn.

“That's not the source of official news [for them] and not the way I build up my brand,” he said.

Mr. Swanburg said he meshes the human quality and the online experience by offering his clients, who prefer to do their own research online, screen sharing options. This allows his clients to speak to him from wherever they are while looking over important information.

At the end of the day, however, it's building relationships that make or break client engagement, he said. For him, that comes with in-person meetings.

“As much as technology improves and as much as you try to replace different activities with technology, the in-person meeting for a client, 18 or 80, is still the most important part of the business,” he said.

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