Building a Successful Virtual Practice

Overview

Whether you're struggling with the new virtual reality, or seeing a potential opportunity to increase efficiency after we return to work, remote work and building a successful practice in these times is a priority for financial advisors.

We recently sat down with Derek Notman, the Founder of Conneqtor and a successful advisor who's been practicing via a virtual model since 2013 in an hour!

Conneqtor's purpose is to serve advisors around the world to exponentially grow their businesses while getting their time back to enjoy a life/work balance.

We covered topics specified for advisors, including:

  • Going virtual – where do you start?
  • After the pandemic ends, how do you tell clients you're staying online?
  • Is there a middle ground? Or should you be entirely virtual or entirely face-to-face?
  • What are the biggest lessons Derek learned that he wish he knew in 2013?

Key Takeaways

CapIntel: What is a virtual financial advisor?

Derek: It is still a financial advisor – you are still providing the same services and products but you are no longer tied to a physical office location.

CapIntel: You’ve been a huge advocate of virtual advising since 2013. What made you go virtual?

Derek: It really was two things. I had an office and it really started to weigh on me. And then I finally realized how much it was wearing on me when I had my son.

My son turns nine next month. And, you know, the first year working in that old model, I was missing so much time with my son and anyone that's a parent knows how fast our kids grow up. So I really wanted to focus more on having a really awesome work life balance where I can still be with my family and experience all the moments that we want to share together and also pursue my passions as an individual.

And the other piece was that everything else was going online. We were dating online. We were doing our banking online. And so it was only a matter of time for our industry to get to the same point because the consumer was expecting it. All of that led me to the virtual path.

CapIntel: How did you communicate with your colleagues and clients initially after going virtual?

Derek: Yeah, that was a challenge, so I was definitely afraid of going virtual because I thought all my clients would just leave.

Initially I didn't tell anyone I was going virtual. I just started conducting some meetings virtually and I only lost one client overall.

CapIntel: What has growth been like for you?

Derek: So in 2019 my revenue was up 20%. My book of business is around 50 million and I am actually trying to make it smaller. It is really more about quality than quantity.

When you go virtual you get rid of a bunch of costs such as real estate, coffees, even some servicing costs and your business becomes more effective from a profitability perspective.

CapIntel: What are some of the key lessons you learnt?

Derek:

  1. Virtual is not an all or nothing thing. You don't have to be 100% virtual. There's a lot of happy middle ground there, depending on your comfort level or your style and what you're working for. Expectations are changing and the demands are changing and you have to evolve with those. Otherwise, you're going to have a whole lot of other challenges and eventually go extinct as an advisor.

    It's totally scalable based upon your comfort level, your type of clients, the lifestyle you want to live. I chose to pretty much go all in. It's just suited me. But that doesn't mean that everyone has to go all in. I know a lot of advisors that only make it as part of their practice and they are able to service it.

  2. You need to have the right physical infrastructure in place to conduct a solid virtual meeting. People get weird when you're talking to them about their money. That's just how they are. So we have to create this environment where they feel really comfortable.

    Make sure your technology works, invest in a good software like Zoom or Skype and a good web cam. For my virtual meetings, I actually like to use free conference call, it is called free conference call dot com. It's a great tool. It is free. They take donations if you want to give them some money. They've got a great product and you can have up to a thousand people on a meeting and it doesn't cut you off after 40 minutes or charge, which I really like, because especially with virtual meetings, sometimes you're going to have two or three people in it at the same time. And if you're using a free version of zoom, you're cut off in 40 minutes.

CapIntel: Any other critical tools that would recommend from a software perspective?

Derek:

  1. Grasshopper
    They provide you with a phone number that I can use through my computer, through my iPhone, an app on my phone. It's an 800 number.
    So clients can call me from anywhere and get a hold of me. I can also call out to them with it, and not have to give up my personal number.
  2. Asana
    I use it as a project management tool.
  3. Salesforce for CRM

CapIntel: What about compliance and legal issues?

Derek: Everything I do is approved by my compliance team, which is fantastic – even my blogs are approved by them.

CapIntel: What channels would you recommend for marketing?

Derek: I'm very active on LinkedIn. It's been a great place for me just to share stories and give suggestions and examples. I don't have to worry about compliance coming down on me because I'm not breaking any rules.

CapIntel: How are you generating leads and finding clients? Is it still all referral based?

Derek:

  1. Social Media
    So social media is a big one. Having a strong, consistent message across all the platforms that you're going to be on is very important. That's your soft marketing.

    It is very important to not be direct selling there. Instead, tell stories. Maybe invite them to a webinar and educate them. You want to engage with others.

  2. Webinars
    Run webinars that are educational and dive deeper into the needs of your clients.
  3. Email
    Build email lists and market to them.
  4. Social Ads
    Boost posts and social ads
  5. Referral and Strategic Partners

    Work on having good referral partners, strategic partners and write guest blog posts for other publications that have good followings.

When I started out, I taught myself a lot of these things but now I outsource entirely all of it.


Thank you Derek!