OFFLINE CLIENTS IN AN ONLINE WORLD: ARE ADVISORS MISSING THE SIGNALS? By Kris Miller

OFFLINE CLIENTS IN AN ONLINE WORLD: ARE ADVISORS MISSING THE SIGNALS?

The Internet offers a bottomless trough of information for investors, but financial advisors need to remember that not all clients – especially those who predate the Web – are comfortable ditching paper  statements  and  face  to  face  meetings,  warn  those  who work with seniors.

Kris  Miller  is  a  Certified  Senior  Advisor  (CSA®),  author,  and blogger  who  serves  on  the  speakers  bureau  for  the  Society  of Certified  Senior Advisors  (SCSA).  She  has  advised  more  than 5,000 families and said she has learned that careful advisors can read  subtle  clues  to  let  them  know  just  how  comfortable  their clients are with technology.

According to a 2014 Pew Research Internet Project report, 41% of Americans 65 years old and older do not go online, and 53% do not have broadband access. The numbers go higher at 75 years old, when more than half do not use the Internet.

“A significant  majority  of  older adults  say  they  need assistance when it comes to using new digital devices,” the study reports.

If  advisors  don’t  measure  how  comfortable  seniors  are  online, they may be losing an important client base.

As  the  SCSA’s  e-book  “Finding  Direction  in  the  Senior  Market: Your  Guide  to Attracting  and  Retaining  Senior  Clients”  reports, Americans over 50 are expected to control more than 70% of the nation’s disposable income.

“The majority of my clients are not on the internet, they don’t want to be,” Miller said. “Advisors have to really, really make sure that the client is there, or they have to create an alternative way to connect with them, the old way, the way we used to do it. If an advisor can’t take the time to be with the client, that’s an issue right there.”

“From  the  first  meeting,  advisors  can  conduct  a  subtle  assessment of a client’s Internet comfort with just a few questions,” Miller said. An alert advisor will pick up clues and understand if a client favors in-person meetings and printed material over emails and online accounts.

Ted  Sarenski,  CPA,  CFP®,  is  chief  executive  and  president  of Blue Ocean Strategic Capital in Syracuse, N.Y., and chairs of the Elder Planning Task Force of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). He said advisors should understand that going online is challenging for some clients, but notes that there’s  a  shortage  of  programs  to  train  advisors  on  teaching clients about available technology.

“We struggle with it quite a bit, actually,” Sarenski said. “We’ll sit down with them at a computer or laptop in the conference room, and we say ‘here’s the website that we go to,’ and we show them the page where they enter their username and password. But it’s hard for them.”

“Actively listening, being aware that clients in their 40s are different from clients in their 70s, and understanding that people have different levels of comfort with technology at every age is crucial,” Miller said.

Miller  said  “she  looks  for  clues  when  assessing  a  client’s  tech skills. She’ll mention a fund or program and ask if the client would like material by email, or if they’d rather have a brochure.” Building on what she learns, Miller said, “she strives to serve clients in a way that makes the comfortable, without making them feel embarrassed about a lack of technical acumen.”

Working  with  the AICPA’s  Elder  task  force,  Sarenski  said  he’s been  exposed  to  sessions  on  creating  a  comfortable  physical environment for seniors. A good office makes it easy for seniors to visit,  with  bright  lighting,  an  uncluttered  layout  and  even  chairs that are easier to get in and out of, instead of soft, low couches. These are all things he takes into account at his own office.

But he said he can’t recall any programs that help advisors specifically assess a client’s comfort with computer platforms or how to teach willing clients how to get online and access their accounts, opening  them  up  to  the  wealth  of  information  available,  from investment news sites to his firm’s own newsletter.

“We’re not trained as teachers,” he said. “There’s no one place you can go that said this is how you approach these folks.”

  • Kris Miller

    Kris Miller

    Celebrated by audiences nationwide as a thoughtful, engaging and generous teacher, bestselling author Kris Miller speaks about financial freedom, second chances and how to thrive in an uncertain economy. Kris Miller’s life is centered on service to others and is built on the foundation of her own second chance. Mansions and forest fires; #1 records and a 3,000 mile, barefoot journey across America; $1,000,000 of chemotherapy and an enduring legacy, building and protecting people’s financial security - Kris’s stories are at once, heartbreaking and uplifting.

    Along the way, Kris has saved more then 6,000 families from tragedy and financial ruin. She’s been called a Legacy Wealth Strategist for the simple yet powerful workshops and keynote presentations she delivers to community groups, corporations and governments. Kris has designed programs that transform people’s relationship to money, debt, security, estate planning and creating lives of celebration. In her private practice, no one has lost a single penny. Many others have learned how to create income they will never outlive and how to face the financial uncertainty of physical and mental health as we grow into our golden years. Kris has been a featured guest on hundreds of radio and TV programs; published in hundreds of print and online publications; and spoken on stages across the country for companies and top financial organizations.

    She’s a Certified Senior Advisor; a Legal Document Assistant or LDA; and she’s been nominated for Woman of the Year and Best Customer Service by the Chamber of Commerce.
    Kris Miller

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