| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 21 Carving out two hours during
the workday to discuss financial planning - or anything else -
has always been a challenge for Dr. Raza Pasha, a medical
director who specializes in snoring and sinus-related disorders
Doctors "start at 7:30 a.m. and then don't get home until 6
p.m. or 7 p.m.," said Pasha, who is also on call late at night
and on weekends.
So when Texas-based wealth adviser Taseer Badar began
working with the physician, it was not unusual for the two to
arrange meetings at 2 a.m. outside of the hospital emergency
Badar, who is founder of wealth management company ZT Wealth
Inc, counts many like Pasha among his clients - busy
professionals whose occupations allow little time for the
traditional in-office daytime meeting. These clients are often
on-the-run and hard to reach, including pilots who are
frequently in the air, diplomats in different time zones and
deployed members of the military.
Finding ways to work around a client's busy schedule is key
to maintaining relationships for advisers. Virtual meetings and
online advising options help fill the scheduling gaps.
ADAPTING THE MEETING STYLE
Elizabeth Mannen, a Missouri-based adviser with Wells Fargo
& Co's Wells Fargo Advisors, has taken a chameleon
approach to working with her clients - modifying her meeting
schedule to fit their hectic routines.
"It's about knowing your audience," said Mannen, who has
been an adviser for more than 20 years and works with a number
of physicians and pilots. "Catch them when it's convenient for
them ... and then when you're with them, think like they think."
For example, when Mannen sees a client who is a trauma
surgeon, she will conduct the meeting in a very brief,
bullet-point format to mirror the way the surgeon receives
updates from nurses or residents at the hospital. "I bring him
up to speed about what we talked about at our last meeting, done
briefly ... It's a really short, intensive meeting," she said.
For her clients who are pilots and typically work for ten
days straight and then have ten days off, Mannen will make an
effort to schedule meetings in the middle of their break period.
Mannen likes to catch pilots when they are most well-rested and
unlikely to be jetlagged.
Web-based technology and correspondence is key for advisers
whose clients are abroad or in different time zones for most of
the year and cannot have in-person encounters. Virtual meeting
programs or cloud-based systems allow advisers to maintain
regular interaction with clients whose professions keep them
Kansas-based independent adviser Brad Stratton, of Concert
Wealth Management, began using the Morningstar Office system to
post documents to a password-protected site, which allows him to
upload reports and lets clients download them for review. The
system is a safer method than email for sending confidential
information, Stratton said.
"I can now post these and they can pull it up at their
leisure and we can set up a conference call and have a
conversation," said Stratton, who began using the system with
one of his "long distance" clients who works for a major
international company based in Tokyo.
Stratton started working with the client locally in the
United States 10 years ago and wanted to continue the
relationship even after his job took him abroad.
"We have Saturday morning conversations," Stratton said.
"That works well for his schedule and for mine with the time
Missouri-based adviser Aaron Vickar, of Buckingham Asset
Management, who counts many physicians among his clients, will
often try to meet with them in person. But when he is unable to,
he uses Skype to conduct evening video phone calls. "A normal
working day no longer applies," Vickar said.
These off-hour Skype calls actually work to Vickar's
advantage in some ways, allowing clients to see what his life is
like outside of the office, he notes.
Vickar often schedules calls after his children go to bed or
around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. "Every once in a while, my kids will hop
in behind me to see what daddy is doing ... and I think that's a
great added human element," he said.
MOVING ADVICE ONLINE
Virginia-based independent adviser Ric Edelman, of Edelman
Financial Services, recently created an online advising platform
that allows clients to access the same investment advice
resources entirely on the Web.
"It's designed partly to serve those people who need to deal
with their investment management on their own terms, based on
their own schedules," he said.
Edelman said he initially expected more engagement from
smaller clients since one of the benefits of the online service
is its lower account minimum. But among the first to sign up was
one of his wealthier clients who is a doctor - an on-call
surgeon who works in the emergency room.
"He never knows what his schedule is like, which makes it
difficult for him to schedule appointments with any degree of
confidence," Edelman said. "He just jumped at the chance to be
able to open his account online. He did it at 2 a.m., on a
Clients who sign up for the Edelman program online also have
the option of working with one of the firm's advisers.
Overall, flexibility is key to maintaining relationships
with clients who have busy professional lives, advisers said.
While Badar and Pasha still have the occasional late-night
talk, the two have come up with alternatives for maintaining
their relationship - keeping in touch through texting or perhaps
meeting briefly on Saturday morning before Pasha heads out for a
"We're flexible - that's what makes both of us work well
together," Badar said. "There are no egos involved. It's all
about doing whatever we need to get the job done."