What Exactly is a Virtual Financial Advisor?

Derek Notman |

Technology has had a positive impact on many industries.  Improved connectivity, better access to information, faster service, etc.  It is now starting to really make a difference in the financial & investment planning industry, one that is way overdue for change. 

As a financial advisor, I have found that meeting with clients online, in a virtual manner, has made working together more efficient, enjoyable and productive.  In order to better accommodate your busy and ever-changing schedule, we make it easier and more efficient to work with us through initial and ongoing online financial planning meetings in a virtual business manner.  

Due to the time constraints you may be under, conducting meetings in a virtual manner can have a huge positive impact, making it an incredible way to maintain a personal connection while getting to the point and making things happen. This is especially effective for business people that frequently travel.


What is a virtual financial advisor?

In short, a virtual financial advisor offers services to clients via the internet using the many tools and applications now available in the digital age. It is a completely safe and convenient process. They provide all the usual services a traditional financial advisor would such as financial planning, business planning, retirement planning and investment advice, etc. except virtually.

Leveraging technology, they conduct online financial planning meetings where you can "see & hear" each other as if you were in the same room.

Whether your virtual financial advisor is viewing financial documents on a shared computer screen, completing paperwork in a paperless environment, or meeting for the first time they truly embrace technology to improve and simplify the financial planning experience. 

This doesn’t mean that you can’t still request a face-to-face meeting with your financial advisor if that makes you more comfortable. But the fact is, there is nothing to be concerned about. As of 2018, over 50% of the business world conduct regular meetings over Skype alone.


Why using a virtual financial advisor is the new normal?

Our communication, for personal and business use, has progressed from handwritten letters delivered by the Pony Express, to telegraph and telephone, to the dreaded fax machine, then to email, and most recently tools like Skype, Slack, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc. 

Each of these technology advancements disrupted industries during their time and this new way of conversing is disrupting our industry in a big way in 2019.

It is not hard to grasp that people who use tools like Skype and FaceTime for personal use are now starting to use it to get personalized online financial advice from the comfort of their own home, office or while they are travelling.  It is not surprising really, people are busy, so if they can leverage technology to get the advice they need in an efficient manner, then why not?


Online Financial Planning

Traditionally people have had to find their financial planner through a referral from a friend, accountant, attorney, etc. or maybe even through an online search.  Then, after that, meeting with a couple of them, all at different times and at different locations to see if they are even a good fit. 

This process is disjointed and time-consuming.  Most people are already apprehensive about discussing their personal financial situation with a stranger, add to that all the work it takes to just find a financial advisor, it is not surprising that most people just don’t want the hassle of looking for one.  The downside to this is that they put off their own financial planning.

Financial advice should always be personalized.  In the 13 years I have been a financial advisor I have never come across two clients that had the same exact needs. 

Although there is a place for services like robo-advisors, their scope and abilities are limited.  Solid financial advice should be administered through a qualified financial advisor (Certified Financial Planner®) that can have an open dialog with you.

It is important for them to learn your hopes, dreams, and goals as these are the things that should and will drive the financial decisions you will make.

Getting your personalized financial advice online through a virtual financial advisor is simply doing it through a digital medium.  If done correctly the quality of the advice should not be compromised at all, and if anything, more can be achieved since the whole process is more efficient and can be done no matter where you are in the world.


What is it like working with a virtual financial advisor?

Working with a virtual financial advisor does not mean the value, quality, or personalization of the advice should be any less than working with one in person.  However, by leveraging the network of digital communication mediums like video-conferencing, screen sharing, etc. a virtual financial advisor can still deliver top-notch advice and service from a distance. 

Working with a virtual financial advisor means sharing with them some very personal information.  Thus, building trust from the first point of contact is crucial.  Sharing your information, talking about your financial planning, investments, insurance, and conducting review meetings can all be done virtually, but only if the digital infrastructure is in place.

Advisors using the online financial planning model tend to use a variety of digital platforms (e.g., online financial portals, video-conferencing services, data aggregators, cloud-based filing systems, etc.) to simplify and improve the client journey.  Like in telehealth, just because financial advice is being given via a digital medium, does not mean that the advice is compromised in any way.


3 Pillars of the virtual financial advisor model:

  • Dedicated remote advice

Each client has a real, dedicated “human advisor” they build a relationship with and to help them as needed.

  • Location independent

Instead of having to meet with an advisor at their office, or have them come to your home, a virtual financial advisor can work from anywhere, thus making it much easier and more convenient to meet with clients when it works best for them.

  • Digital implementation

Virtually (pun intended) the entire process from the initial meeting and onboarding through implementation and ongoing service can be done digitally.

Do not confuse this model with a service center, that takes inbound inquires for mostly service-related items.  Although some financial services companies have higher calibre call-centres that are even staffed with licensed advisors, most are not dedicated to any clients, thus you tend to speak to a new person each time you call in and must tell them all over again what you are trying to accomplish.

The digital advice model is comprehensive, usually with a dedicated virtual financial advisor (or team of advisors) for each client.  Working in this manner offers a more robust & efficient value proposition for certain segments like the mass affluent and high net worth markets that are adopting this model more and more.

A digital financial advisor can offer meaningful and significant value to clients. The exponential advance of digital technologies has allowed financial advisors to work remotely while still providing highly customized, personalized, face-to-face, financial advice to their clients. 

By working in this manner financial advisors can offer the same, if not better, financial advice while cutting their overhead expenses and “windshield” time.  The cost savings can then in turn be passed onto the clients through lower prices. Working this way empowers advisors to offer top-notch quality advice, on the client’s terms, while reducing the expenses for both parties. 

Let’s face it, people’s lives get busy.  The virtual financial advisor model can offer much greater flexibility for meetings during evenings and weekends.

I have clients that I have never sat in the same room with, yet we work very well together and know a lot about each other, chatting about our kids, vacations, etc.  I also have clients where most of the work we do is done virtually but we still try to meet in person from time to time.  It helps keep the relationship strong and there simply is no replacement for a face to face meeting.

When you are considering working with a financial advisor, online or in person, make sure you find out how they operate, how often you can expect to hear from them, what it costs to work with them, and the value you will get in return (see my previous post; The Value Of Paying An Advisor For Financial Planning & Investment Advice for more information).  You may find that working in a virtual manner is much easier and more comfortable for you, and if you know you can still meet in person with your advisor when necessary, it would seem like the perfect combination of digital advice and human interaction.

If you are interested in working with a virtual financial advisor, I suggest checking my out firm, Intrepid Wealth Partners, where we are leading the charge for virtual financial advisors.  We leverage technology to meet with you, conducting business virtually anywhere, saving you money and time!

Thank you for reading!

Best Regards,