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In a Technologized World, Face-to-Face is Still Most Efficient

By R.A. Monroe April 8, 2016

This week we interviewed Kevin Guth, a New Haven, Conn.-based partner and managing director at Snowden Lane Partners, an independent wealth advisory firm with offices across the country. Guth recalls how pressing for an in-person meeting with a client paid off.

Not long ago, I was referred a new client: a woman who had been recently widowed at the age of 49. She had received some money from her husband’s life insurance, and she wanted me to manage it on her behalf. Our initial conversations happened over the phone, which is an increasingly common thing. Keeping in touch via phone and email is an efficient way to stay in touch with clients who have busy lives, and who might not be able to find the time for a face-to-face meeting in the office.

Even though putting together this client’s portfolio seemed to be going smoothly, I pushed for an in-person meeting. Eventually, we set up a time for me to drive over to her house so we could meet.

It didn’t take long for me to be very grateful that I did. In person, this client began to open up about many things that had been concerning her, and that she hadn’t mentioned before. I knew that her children were still young; she told me that she often lost sleep worrying about who would shoulder the responsibility if she were to get sick in the next few years.

She also brought up concerns about the best way to save for her children’s college education.

Over the course of our one-hour meeting I learned much more about this client than I had in several previous phone and email conversations.

I could see the tension in her face and body as she mentioned her anxiety about long-term care and college savings. Her body language revealed that these issues were causing her much more stress than she’d been letting on. I mentioned a few ways that I could help her figure out these problems, including devising a college savings strategy for her son and investigating long-term care insurance options for her.

I was amazed to see her visibly relax.

When I drove away from her house that day, I was so grateful I had taken the time to arrange an in-person meeting. Not only did I learn much more about the client’s true needs, I was also able to help her realize that my firm could do much more for her than merely managing her portfolio.

Kevin Guth

Our firm is very computer-savvy and we’ve invested a lot in our technology processes. We’re very proud of these systems and we rely on them quite a bit. We’re not the only ones; so much communication happens over email and text these days.

It’s easy to think of these as time-saving technologies, and to imagine that a meeting held over FaceTime is more efficient than one that involves hopping in the car and trekking all the way out to a client’s house.

But in my experience in-person meetings are actually much more efficient in the long run. There’s really no replacement for being in the room with your client.

It’s easy to give a client a checklist, read over their answers, and think that you have a sense of whom they are and what they need. But when you meet with them face-to-face, you end up learning so much more than you would otherwise.