Start clients on a digital path

Submitted by Brian.Lavelle on October 21, 2020

LAUREN WILKINSON: Hi, I'm Lauren Wilkinson, Vice President of Digital Advisor Experience at Schwab. I'm pleased to be joined today by Stephanie Barnier, founder of Clear Sky Wealth. She has founded her firm from the beginning to be digitally-forward, focused on maximizing the use of technology to serve her clients. So I'm happy to have her here today to share some best practices. Thanks for joining, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE BARNIER: Thanks, Lauren. Good to see you.

LAUREN: So let's start with how did you get started?

STEPHANIE: Like you mentioned, that was our priority from the beginning. We transferred to Schwab a few years ago, and it was important for us to be really efficient in that transfer, especially staff.

We were really inclined to be tech-forward because that transition, as most of us know, it can be a lot if you're not organized.

So we got organized a few years ago. Little did I know that pays really big dividends as a firm in efficiency, as we are 100% paperless now and our clients are very adept to digital tools.

And our goal is to grow our client base without growing our staff, so that we can still create that really great relationship with our clients, have that client experience, but also be really efficient. And technology has allowed us to do that.

LAUREN: Well, that's great. So over the last several months due to COVID, all of us have become a lot more tech-forward, having to use technology to do work and stay connected. So can you share how your tech focus has helped you during the recent environment?

STEPHANIE: That's a really great question, because when offices shut down and non-essential businesses closed, basically, we were still able to be up and running and service our clients, and use our phone services actually using a tool, RingCentral. We use their technology for our phones and texts, because we can archive those text messages, as well. So those are some of the things that really worked well for our business, as well as videoconferencing. And there's a lot of them. I've started to use even more of them over time.

We ask that they share their face with us. They don't have to stay on camera the whole time. Not everybody likes to be on camera, but just to verify that it actually is them.

And for that meeting, they receive a one-time password, so that's really efficient, too. And the various layers of security that we've set in place, because clients have been concerned about it so we took that extra step during COVID to provide that security.

LAUREN: Well, that's great. I think it's a good reminder that we should focus on security, so it's great to hear that you took those security measures, as well as the extra steps you took in preparing clients for how to use this.

But before we wrap, can you share with other firms who are interested in becoming more digitally-forward, how could they get started? What are some tips for them to get going?

STEPHANIE: So my first piece of advice is not to panic, and to prioritize what's best for your firm. If it is to get paperless, start with those new clients coming onboard and making them paperless from the beginning, using the digital tools, the account-opening tools, the move money tools that Schwab provides, and becoming really seamless in that process. And then having a one-year plan backing into that to get the existing clients onboard for being paperless, and to really create more efficiency in your firm. And you might find that your staff is more efficient, as well.

LAUREN: Well, thank you. I think that's a great approach, to focus on the new clients and also the existing clients. Thanks for joining us today, Stephanie. This was great to have you.

STEPHANIE: Great to be here. Thanks, Lauren.

Stephanie Barnier, CFP®, Founder and CEO of Clear Sky Wealth, shares why she started her firm with a digital focus and gives tips for digitally onboarding new and current clients.

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