Is it Time to Bring Back the Home Visit?

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Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 9.07.40 AMIs it just me, or is the whole “online financial planning” and “robo-advisor” angle getting a little old? It’s still a new approach, but it’s been written about and reported on ad nauseum. But let’s be honest, many clients won’t need or use it.

Whatever happened to the good-ol’ days when an advisor would leave their office, go visit with someone and talk about their finances and life. They would share an afternoon with them, talk about their hopes and dreams over a pot of tea and connect with another human being in a casual environment.

I would be negligent in saying that many advisors still do this. They still visit clients in their homes and continue these “money” discussions from where they originated. But the whole topic of discussing money is at risk of losing its personal touch.

But let’s take a step back for a minute.

Where do you talk about money with your significant other? My wife and I typically do this in the kitchen or at the dining room table. When some quiet time comes around (not typical in a house with two children under the age of 5), we sit down and take time to hear each other’s opinions about our situation and tweak our existing plan.

For me, to continue that conversation in an unfamiliar office seems foreign and I have noticed clients in the past look uncomfortable in these surroundings. Upon reflection, I have designed my business to take that into account, and encourage you to think about it as well.

Business re-design

Recently, I have been intentional with my recent prospect and client meetings, taking time to visit clients in their homes. While it’s convenient for me to share advice on the phone, I want to be deliberate in talking to people where they naturally talk about their finances.

The positive feedback I get from meeting a client in a place that’s comfortable for them is outstanding!

Recently, I delivered a plan to an administrator of a school district. I wanted to meet him at his home, but as it was under construction I asked him where he’d like to meet. As he maintains his personal finances from his office, he asked if I would mind going there. I went to his office and we talked through his plan and action steps he should be taking. He couldn’t stop thanking me for fitting this into his day, how he didn’t have to travel, and how it kept his evenings free. More importantly, it engaged him more deeply with his plan, and he started taking positive actions right away.

Knowing many people don’t go their offices to discuss their finances, I encouraged another client to have their meeting in the location where they typically talk about money – for them, it was at their kitchen table. They were intrigued as to why we wouldn’t meet in a conference room or somewhere neutral. I explained to them about wanting to discuss their finances in a place that was comfortable to them, had some familiarity to it, and where they felt “safe” to take the conversation where it needed to go. While it may be a place where disagreements where had, it’s important that the conversations are as natural as possible.

So let’s talk about you:

  • Where do you hold your client meetings?
  • Have you asked your clients if they’d like to meet somewhere else?
  • Where do your clients talk about their personal finances, and is this a space they’d feel comfortable having their advisor come into?

This type of business design has to be deliberate – technology has to be portable, planning may need to happen “on the fly”, and you must be at ease discussing finances outside of your comfort zone (your office).

Be deliberate in thinking about this. If your way of doing business can be taken out of the office, ask clients if they’d like to meet somewhere else to discuss their situation. You might be surprised at what they talk about when the location is very safe and familiar to them.

Dave Grant, CFP®, is the founder of Finance For Teachers a fee-only RIA in Cary, IL. Dave exclusively serves teachers in Illinois by helping them to organize their financial lives and live a fulfilled life. He is also a columnist at Financial Planning magazine, a ghost writer for various companies, and the founder of NAPFA Genesis, a networking group for over 300 young, fee-only planners.