Like the rest of the world, WealthO2 had to make significant changes to how they do business almost overnight. Face-to-face meetings were going to be impossible for the foreseeable future at a time when people needed to get financial advice and information more than ever.
The technology to enable digital/virtual connections exists but pulling it all together to make it a simple process for both advisers and customers was a significant challenge. Managing director Shannon Bernasconi says, "We recognised that the advisers were forced into a world of digital meetings with clients and some were more prepared than others for this change.
"The idea of changing from a face to face meeting to a digital one was for some at first a challenge. Saying that the advisers adopted this new communications protocol efficiently and we observed most adjusting within the first 2 weeks of the pandemic. It was then that WealthO2 looked to how we could assist and the idea of the digital meeting tool came about.
"This new feature brings advisers and clients closer when physical distancing rules are in place. It allows clients of advisers to set up a meeting with the adviser, via the client portal, in Zoom or Acuity or whatever meeting or calendar platform the adviser uses.
"Quite simply, a client logged into their portal can schedule a meeting directly into their adviser’s calendar. It connects the clients with the advisers’ digital calendars to more easily facilitate online face-to-face meetings."
Making a sudden, systemic change like this could result in pushback however Bernasconi says that everyone recognised the historic nature of the challenges they faced and were on board early. "The advisers were very supportive. We asked for their interest and opinion before we started the development. Some advisers have since commented that they will adopt the shorter regular calls with clients as a standard practice even post the crisis. The client gets more regular catch-ups and the adviser is more efficient and the commute time is returned to their day."
The new technology simplifies integration with a variety of tools, like Outlook, Google, and Acuity; CRM software like Salesforce; and video platforms like Zoom.
As with the scheduling component, Bernasconi says they were able to lean on existing technology for recording calls to expedite the process while packaging it in a way that addressed the very specific requirements for advisers.
Testing to get it right
While the goal was to get a product out to advisers ASAP, they realised that having a buggy tool would be worse than having no solution at all. "In the testing, we tried to get access to as many platforms as we could. We also asked a number of advisers what they used today to ensure we got coverage of the most commonly-used platforms."
WealthO2 leaned on already-available calendar integration tools available in the market to help speed the entire process by removing the need to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch.
Fortunately, Bernasconi says the rollout was largely without issue thanks in large part to having an in-house development team.
But, if they had to do it all over again? "Do it before COVID-19 highlights the need!
"Sometimes in hindsight it’s a crisis that shines light on new possibilities and this is an example of how the crisis brought a need to our attention."