PharmD Financial Planning is a full service wealth management firm. It's located in Owatonna MN, which is 65 miles south of Minneapolis MN. Our physical location has lead to many people to ask, "Can I still work with you, even if I don't live near your office?" The easy answer to that is, "of course you can." So, at PharmD Financial Planning, how do we create a seamless, personable, and highly valuable relationship with our clients, who are spread out across the United States? It's because we're able to combine technology and communication together in a way that amplifies the advisor/client relationship. In this blog post, I'll explain exactly how that's done.
The PharmD FP technology infrastructure
The PharmD FP service model
The PharmD FP communication standards
Why working virtually is as good as in-person with PharmD Financial Planning
The PharmD Financial Planning Technology Infrastructure
Technology in the twenty first century has allowed people to do things that we could only dream about a decade ago. I don't think working with a financial planner virtually is at the top of that list, but thanks to innovative tech tools, it's now easier to do then ever. The biggest priority we had at PharmD Financial Planning was creating an environment when meeting with clientele that resembles being in-person as much as possible.
To help with that, we decided to implement Zoom as our online videoconferencing system. Zoom is a reliable and intuitive tool that most people in America are aware of (thanks to the pandemic). The adoption process of Zoom is straightforward and it comes with enough communication features that it can create an atmosphere of an in-person meeting. Because of that, we use Zoom to facilitate all of our virtual meetings.
Customized Client Portal
One of the most convenient reasons for meeting with someone in person is the ease of sharing physical documents. Remember when you used to put all of your year-end tax forms into a box or bag and drop it off at your accountants office? People did and still do the same thing with their financial planners. But how does that work if you live 2,000 miles away? At PharmD Financial Planning, we utilize a secure and customized online client portal.
Each client of our firm will have access to their own personal portal. This portal gives clients the ability to link all their accounts, track their net worth, monitor their cash flow, and provides a number of other valuable features. One of them being a secure file sharing vault.
Within the client portal, any client can upload a document straight into their file vault from their computer. As the advisor, I can do the same thing. So instead of physically mailing information back and forth or risking the security of an email, our clients can share information with me, and me with them, safely and securely through their client portal.
Inevitably, the next sticking point in working with a financial advisor virtually is the fear you're never going to get access to that person when you need them. It's much easier to be able to just drive to an advisors office to see them. When working with someone virtually, you don't have that luxury.
This is why we implemented Calendly within the firm. We wanted to create an easy way for clients to schedule meetings whenever they need to. Often, I get emails from clients that ask if we can meet within the next couple of weeks. Instead of playing the game of emailing back and forth and trying to predict a day and time that works for each of us, I simply email my Calendly link to the client, and they can use it to instantly schedule a meeting at their convenience. Thanks to Calendly, the headache of scheduling a meeting virtually has been completely alleviated.
Exchanging money for a service in-person is simple. You can exchange physical currency, write a check, or swipe a card. Now a days you can even tap your cell phone to a scanner and your payment will be made. It's fast, reliable, and easy to do. Can the same be said when working with PharmD Financial Planning virtually?
We definitely think so! The tech tool that helps us in this phase of the virtual relationship is AdvicePay. I'm certain that you've made at least one purchase in your life online, right? You shop Amazon, Target, Walmart or wherever else and when you're done you go to the virtual check-out line. You input your credit or debit card information and make the payment. It's as simple as that when working with us virtually.
AdvicePay allows our clients to create a secure payment portal. Within that portal, our clients can add their credit card information, debit card information, or even their bank account information (acct & routing #) directly into their portal. We then set-up an automatic payment where money from that payment source is automatically debited when our quarterly fee is due. The best part is, PharmD Financial Planning has NO access to that payment information. It's kept completely private as an extra layer or security.
It's also worth noting that client's can also pay our firm through direct withdrawals from their investment accounts, if they choose to take advantage of our investment management services. So each client can pick their preferred payment option while requiring almost zero effort to keep the quarterly payments going. It's simple and safe.
Many of the other communication tools that you would come to expect from a financial advisory firm are available to us through Google. Email, telephone, calendar, and document storage are all provided through Google G-Suite.
From a virtual standpoint, this eliminates the need for giant filing cabinets and a mailing room. At PharmD Financial Planning, we can securely organize and store important client documents without having to physically have them in our office. This provides our virtual clientele with a back-up to their own filing system.
Can't find a tax return from a few years ago? Chances are we'll have a saved copy for you. Can't remember where you placed your will and trust documents? Chances are we'll have a saved copy for you. Is there an old statement you wish you didn't throw away in the trash? Chances are we'll have a saved copy of it for you.
We've done our due diligence and have documented that work in our data security manual. So we have confidence in knowing that digital information of our clients is safe and accessible if and when they need it.
Other Tech Tools
To get a more comprehensive look at the other technology tools we use to enhance our virtual relationships and service with clients, take a look at our Company Booklet.
Communication and Service
I once had a prospective client ask me "You're hundreds of miles away, how do I know you're actually getting work done for me and not just out on a golf course all day long?" That's a fair question that I want to address next. First, being located in the same town as an advisor doesn't incentivize that advisor to do more or less work for you. However, it's still important to have a good understanding of how a virtual advisor goes about their business when working with clients.
At PharmD Financial Planning, we believe that our work is a process and not an event. We place great value on what we're able to do behind the scenes for clients so they don't have to worry about it themselves. Here is how we make it all work.
Annual Service Calendar
Our work at PharmD Financial Planning is proactive. We don't want to sit around all day waiting for clients to call with problems (although we pride ourselves on being available when we're needed!). Instead, we want to be proactive in the actions we take. This is done through the implementation of our Annual Service Calendar. These are the tasks that we do for our clients each and every month. It doesn't matter if our clients are located one block away or on the other side of the country, the service model is the same.
In addition to the annual service calendar, we also implement service offerings that are specific to each client. Think of it like a two tiered cake. The annual service calendar outlines the services we provide throughout the year for all clients. It's the base layer. On top of that is the specific services we perform that are tailored to fit each clients specific needs. It's the smaller top layer. This provides comfort to our clients knowing that we are doing the work that needs to be done on their behalf.
Have you ever tried to communicate with someone and felt like you were getting ghosted? I'm sure you have. You may feel like your calls are getting screened, your emails are getting overlooked, and you're getting straight up forgotten. The only available remedy in this situation is to physically go and see that individual so they have no where to run!
That works but isn't an option when you work with a financial advisor virtually. This can cause a lot of angst for some people. Your last resort of finding the person at their office isn't even an option anymore when they are not within driving distance of your location. It's freighting to think about how bad the "ghosting" can get in this type of situation.
At PharmD Financial Planning, we understand your concern and it's why we've made it a priority in the firm to uphold a high level of on-call availability. I have made it my mission to make sure firm growth and client acquisition do not supersede client service. It's a pillar of this firm. The phone will get answered when you call or a prompt return phone call can be expected. All emails are usually answered same day as well. It's important to know your financial advisor is there for you when you need them, especially when that client/advisor relationship is virtual.
Our clients are busy people. They have jobs, families, hobbies, and other priorities that come first. Many times, they don't have the time or inclination to keep up with all the changes that are happening in our investment markets, economy, tax regulation, etc.
This makes it difficult for them to gauge the level of concern that is needed when they do hear news that affects their money in any given week. To help with that, PharmD Financial Planning sends the PharmD Weekly every Friday morning.
It's a short summary of that weeks important economic activity, followed by a fun history fact, and ends with a personal note about myself and my family. It's my way of keeping clients up to date with the important stuff that is going on in world, which allows them to not have to worry about everything else.
It's also my way of providing more insight into my life to help build the advisor/client trust and familiarity that is so important to have.
I understand it can be a bit uncomfortable to work with a financial planner virtually. After all, it's a completely new concept that wasn't really adopted until COVID struck. Most people relied on advisors within their geographical footprint and that was it.
However, with the benefit of new technology, you don't have to place that restriction on yourself anymore. Instead of location being the number one reason why you pick an advisor, it should be more about competence and service model fit instead. Those two areas are where I believe PharmD Financial Planning stands out most.
Along with that, we've worked hard on perfecting the virtual relationship. Ultimately for the benefit of our clients. I look forward to proving that to you in the future. Until then, Happy Planning!