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Video Call or Office-Visit Topic? Investors Share Their Preferences

A new Hartford Funds study preaches prudence.

More than half of Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and restrictions are lifting. Financial advisors and their clients can safely meet in person again and a study suggests investors will want to, at least periodically.

Throughout the pandemic, clients have proven their willingness to discuss their finances over a video conference. But many are not interested in discussing personal information, such as family or health matters, with a financial professional over Zoom, Teams, or any other service. About a third of investors said they would not be comfortable discussing those things virtually and 25% would not rule out discussing personal information but preferred to “reserve non-financial conversations for in-person meetings,” according to a survey by Hartford Funds. 

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Thirty-nine percent said they would feel comfortable discussing personal information during a virtual meeting. 

“There is a pretty good gulf between those two,” John Diehl, managing director of Applied Insights at Hartford Funds, said about the groups comfortable or uncomfortable discussing personal information.

One possible explanation is that the group uninterested in talking to a financial professional about their family or hobbies has never worked with one. They might not realize their investments and financial plans are inseparable from their personal goals, wants, or needs. “The longer that you're in this business what you’ll find is that the money is a symptom or an outcome of the other experiences that a client is having,” Diehl told RIA Intel.

The same Hartford Funds survey also showed that financial professionals aren’t even necessarily where people go for help with their finances. Although 66% would seek out a financial professional, such as a financial advisor or a tax accountant, 47% said they would seek advice from family, 33% would seek it from friends, 12% from social media, and 33% from the rest of the internet.

“The data said to me that personal relationships, be it with family or financial advisors, they still make a big difference,” Diehl said.

Advisors also stand to benefit from meeting clients in person for the same reasons they did before the pandemic. It’s easier to build a more personal connection, which could lead investors to be more open about their lives. That information could be invaluable in helping a wealth manager give advice. 

Still, both advisors and clients stand to benefit from more video calls — a great way to quickly update them on their portfolio, partly because they can easily view the same things on respective screens, Diehl said.

The wealth management industry agrees that client interactions will be a virtual and in-person hybrid. But how much of each, remains unclear. It will largely depend on what each client wants, and advisors are usually eager to please.

“No one really knows what the mix is going to be yet,” Diehl. 

Michael Thrasher (@Mike_Thrasher) is a reporter at RIA Intel based in New York City.

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