Using technology to take on unexpected challenges

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 Mike McCann, with Perspective Financial Services. Mike, welcome.

Can you start by just sharing, where did you get started when you were choosing to expand your technology focus?

MIKE McCANN: Sure. The first thing is we look at our overall business model and what it is that we provide for our clients.

And, effectively, the most critical piece to our firm is that we are very relationship-based. And the relationship with our clients is always critical and it always will be.

And so we kind of looked at two parts. The first phase was to look at technology that would allow us to take… automate some of the regular everyday activities, things like rebalancing trades, for example, that would then allow us more time to spend with our clients. A little bit more of an efficiency piece.

And then after that was implemented, we then looked at, well, how do we expand the relationship with our clients, such that they're able to interact with more people in the firm? And so our technology is largely based around the CRM as the hub with financial planning software, and that allows us to get the entire relationship of our client and be able to see that at a quick glance, much more critical than simply focusing on the portfolios for our clients.

LAUREN: Well, that's great to hear. And I know for many people we've all become a lot more comfortable using technology to stay connected and work remotely due to COVID. So can you share how your firm's adoption of technology has helped you during this most recent environment?

MIKE: Sure. It really allowed us to be well prepared for this, not having any idea something like this could come down, of course. COVID came with a massive market correction, a big crash, as everybody knows. And that takes a lot of time with our clients going through that. It's certainly not the first time we've gone through a big correction, but perhaps the most dramatic one in our firm's history, I would think. And so by having all of our routine activities, such as trading, rebalance, and downloads, and things of that nature taken care of through automation and technology, we didn't have to worry about how to transition that as we were moving from the offices to our home. And that still allowed us to continue to have the time to speak with our clients.

Then came your routine activities. You know, at first we thought, well, maybe this is a two-week shutdown or something, but, no, of course not. And so we had things like moving money, people needed wires done, they needed money journaled between accounts. And so that gave us an opportunity to explore more with our non-digital clients, to get them to start using Schwab Alliance in order to approve things like journals so that we didn't have to wait for mail time or try to produce mail coming from multiple different homes and such.

But with the quarantine, we were able to implement the video call, have the screen-sharing, as well as the face-to-face contact with clients that wouldn't ordinarily try this. And we found some really good success. It really brought down walls, if you will, that might normally be associated with just a phone call, in that here you are, perhaps, in your kitchen, and it just gets a more personal conversation with your clients.

LAUREN: Well, thanks for sharing that. And for other firms who are looking to expand their technology presence, what advice would you have for them?

MIKE: Let's start with something that's quick, low cost, and easy to implement. You don't need to start with the big thing, start with the small things. And something like I mentioned earlier with move money, get them into the Schwab Alliance and get them approving a transaction. Take it a step further, whether it's a new client or an existing client needing a new account, instead of doing the mail, use the digital account opening. They may be uncomfortable with it at first, but just ask them to make an exception this time if they can. They might be surprised as to how easy it is to approve and much quicker process, cleaner.

Go with the assumption the client wants to do something digitally. They now realize they can't come into your office. They probably don't want to come into your office. They realize that the mail is a little bit slower than it used to be. And so let them know this is a plus. You're able to serve them on a digital basis and make things go a little bit quicker and easier. Yes, it's different. It's perhaps a little bit uncomfortable, but think of this as a time to... the expression I've heard in the past is 'dig your well before you're thirsty.' Think of this as a time to invest for the future. We will get through COVID, of course, but at some point something else in your firm, or personally, or perhaps in the community will come up that will cause another disruption at some point down the road. And by putting these things into place, you'll be ready for it.

LAUREN: Thank you for sharing this, Mike. It's been great to connect with you again, and I really appreciate all the best practices you've been able to share.

MIKE: Well, thanks. It's been my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Mike McCann, Founder and President of Perspective Financial Services, shares how investing in technology helps keep his firm running smoothly and focused on client relationships.

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