Whether you feel good, bad or indifferent about it – video chat on platforms like Zoom very quickly became synonymous with wider events this year.

Media advertising soon caught up and the distinctive images were everywhere. That trend has inevitably crossed over into professional walks of life, including of course financial services.

Indeed, four in 10 industry professionals say they are now using video chat to help conduct new business at their firm. The finding is part of a June 2020 survey we conducted of a cross-section of Dynamic Planner users, responding to questions concerning new business they had conducted – with new and with existing clients – in four months from February to May this year.

Video chat was one of two key ways firms engaged with clients, in a first meeting for new business, with 40% revealing they used it. Respondents added that clients were comfortable with the platform, through using it socially in lockdown and said that the time savings professionally, through not having to travel to client homes for meetings, were huge.

One person wrote:

“Video conferencing has meant we can speak with a client in Belfast, Devon and Essex in the same day. Face-to-face would have taken a week.”

The most popular way to host a first meeting with clients this year, at 44%, was a telephone conversation, while 10% said they used email. Prior to a meeting, just over half, 51%, said telephone was how they initially communicated with a client – with a quarter, 25%, using email and 17% employing video chat in that scenario.

In an interview in late-March, Lee Whiteside, an adviser in the North West, revealed he first started using Zoom – in combination with Dynamic Planner – this year once lockdown began.

He said of the platform:

“You can share documents with the client and do pretty much everything you can face-to-face… and at the point of sale. It’s actually easier, in one way and a really good of working. You do start to think, ‘Why don’t I run my business like this all the time?’”

David Owen, of Lifetime Connect in Hertfordshire, commented in April:

“Hopefully, some advisers will embrace this change and carry on holding client meetings remotely in future. And once we start to get up to speed and move away from things like wet signatures, for example, we can be in a position to work more effectively.”

June’s survey of Dynamic Planner users ran to 21 questions and covered multiple issues around new business for firms.

Concerning barriers to new business, 42% answered that they were already running at capacity at their firm, while 20%, one in five, said they did not have time to pursue new business. 22% added that opportunities for new business were simply not there and 12% said they could not recruit enough people to meet the demand.

Compared to Q4 2019, the survey questioned, ‘How is your level of new business in 2020?’ 46%, nearly half, said their level of new business was lower, while a third, 33%, said it was the same and just over a fifth, 21%, said it had been higher this year.

Time, or a lack of it – despite us being more time-rich in many ways, working from home in lockdown – was a recurring issue.

The survey asked, ‘How much time does your new business process take, from initial contact to completion?’ Less than 3% said it was faster this year, while 38% revealed it was slower and 60% said it was the same. When asked to elaborate, ‘Why?’, respondents described delays with post and providers; collaboration among colleagues, hampered by people working in isolation remotely; and a lack of support from admin team members, who had been furloughed.

‘Why were clients and prospects getting in touch?’ Understandably, the top reason at 23% was market volatility, followed on 19% by a desire to get finances and life in order – and on 18% by income in retirement. 14% said that lockdown had given them time to really look at their finances, while 10% said lockdown had made them re-evaluate and had triggered their inquiry.

Lee Whiteside continued in March:

“Clients, of course, are worried at the moment. We’re seeing pretty significant losses, even in quite low risk portfolios. There’s no point avoiding client phone calls. It’s about reiterating messages and revisiting client objectives. It’s a reassurance piece as much as anything.”

Nick Ryan, with Yellow Bear Financial Consultancy in Buckinghamshire, said earlier this year:

“Of course, I’m not happy about the situation as their adviser and they’re not happy as clients. But I am pleased with how people have reacted – I don’t think I actually could have asked for a better reaction. Hopefully, that was down to the preparation work we have together done in readiness for this type of market fall-off.”

David Owen added of the crisis’ impact:

“Rather than disrupted, I would say it has actually enabled us as a business. We’ve not hit the pause button, we’ve carried on – just with a different rhythm and routine.”

What did our survey reveal? ‘10 learnings from advice firms successfully generating new business in the pandemic’. Download your copy of our guide here.