This article is the second in a two-part series on how advisors can work from the cottage effectively. The first article looked at the various ways to access the internet.
Given the choice, most financial advisors would rather deal with client issues on a deck in the sunshine than in an office under fluorescent lights. In the summer, many do just that. Thanks to modern cloud-based services, you can create a mini-office at the cottage, putting out fires in the morning before going swimming with the kids before lunch.
Setting up the proper technology to work at the cottage takes a little planning, though, warns Jill Tipping, president and chief executive of the BC Tech Association in Vancouver. Even advisors who run small, independent practices should consider how their technology for working remotely integrates with all of their existing tools, she advises: “Think about what your workflow is as a business rather than just picking up one piece [of technology] for this and one piece for that.”
Tami Romanchuk, owner, advisor and financial planner at Shoreline Financial & Insurance Services Ltd. in Victoria, chose a vertically integrated software system to handle her entire workflow when she’s away from the office. However, Ms. Romanchuk’s getaways aren’t traditional; she spends at least two months a year in what she calls her “cottage on wheels” – a 1981 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van.
Ms. Romanchuk works in the van while touring Vancouver Island and further afield – often driving to see clients throughout British Columbia. She recently returned from a week-long tour of the province’s Southern Gulf Islands and also drove to a conference in Whistler, handling all kinds of client issues in her makeshift office in the back of the van along the way.
“As a business owner, you don’t get to take days off,” she says.
Along the road, Ms. Romanchuk finds places with power outlets where she can charge the on-board batteries that power her lightweight MacBook Air laptop. She parks the camper on the nearest beach for the night and spends early mornings working from a desk at the back of the vehicle while gazing out at the ocean.
Tethering her laptop to her mobile phone, she’ll log into Kronos Finance, a single integrated cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) service that features access to client records, e-mail and to-do lists.
Having an integrated system makes work easier to manage on the road, she says. “It ties everything together – all your e-mails and your documents.”
Sean Ryder, a senior executive financial consultant with M.J. Loreto & Associates Private Wealth Management in Toronto, part of Investors Group Financial Services Inc., relies heavily on his smartphone for staying in touch with the office while at his cottage near Huntsville, Ont. He uses BlackBerry Work, an application that provides access to e-mail and scheduling, and recently added BlackBerry Access, a secure browser that gives him access to internal applications at the office.
To handle more intensive work, he breaks out his Microsoft Surface laptop, a lightweight computer that transforms into a tablet. The two devices and software help him manage regular check-ins throughout the day, answer emails and field any calls with clients who can’t wait.
Checking e-mails regularly not only means he’s there for clients, but it also prevents them from piling up and having to deal with them after the break, he says: “I can take 10 or 15 minutes and triage it in the morning, lunch time, and dinner time when I have a little bit of a lull and there’s nothing going on.”
When a client really needs to talk, Mr. Ryder can connect with them through Cisco WebEx, an online meeting system that lets him share his screen and present slides to clients.
“You can get so much more done in such a short period of time,” he says. “I can just pop up my screen, they can see it on their screen, we have a phone call and I can highlight everything as if I were sitting beside them.”
Online meeting tools also offer video conferencing, which is a valuable tool for Betty-Anne Howard, certified financial planner at Athena Wealth Management, part of IPC Investment Corp., in Kingston, Ont. She’s currently in the middle of a four-week holiday at her cedar log cabin on a private lake in Lyndhurst, Ont., which is 40 minutes away from her office, but she’s still available when she needs to be.
Ms. Howard takes meetings via the Zoom video conferencing tool, a cloud-based system that offers dedicated private ‘rooms’ on which advisors and clients can connect. Her assistant sets up the appointments for her in the Universal Village software (UVC), a CRM system containing all of her e-mails, tasks and client history.
She can access UVC on her laptop for more intensive work, but when walking the dog or kayaking on the lake, she’ll use its dedicated app on her iPhone. The app’s icon displays a red badge notification when there’s a message waiting, making it easy to check at a glance whether something needs her attention.
As a last resort, Ms. Howard’s team knows that they can always reach her through conventional means.
“They know I don’t always pay attention to things,” she says. “I have a business line at home, and they’ll call [that] line, they’ll call my home line, they’ll call my cell phone, or they’ll send me a text.”