Schwab’s annual RIA benchmarking survey is always an eagerly awaited update on goings-on in the space, but perhaps no iteration of the report has been more anticipated than 2020’s as the wealth management industry has been grappling with all of the implications of the ongoing pandemic. had a great write up of the report and spoke with a number of top-performing advisors who shared their thoughts on how COVID-19 has upended their approaches.

A comment from one highly successful advisor, whose firm has managed to continue their growth during these difficult times, stuck with me as I was reading this piece: “We found ourselves in a really nice position, but unfortunately… white-glove service is harder to deliver virtually.”

If you’re an effective wealth manager, you’re generally an effective communicator. Historically, that meant sitting down with clients and prospects for meetings in your office or their home, lunches, dinners, and other gatherings that allowed you to look people in the eyes and have the kind of meaningful conversations that let you know just what was keeping them up at night, and what they hoped to accomplish.

This year turned that approach on its head.

Schwab’s study found a massive shift underway to virtual client meetings (77 percent of Schwab’s survey respondents report that they are now using this approach), screen sharing approaches (75 percent), greater reliance on digital forms (71 percent), and more acceptance of digital approaches to client communications and prospecting.

A point my colleagues and I at Seismic have long made in our discussions with the wealth management industry is that it is always a bull market for quality advice. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that, but what it has brought into sharp focus is the need for understanding and adopting the tools that best allow you to remain the kind of financial counselor your clients need you to be; meaning that while you might not be able to shake their hand and sit down for a conversation, you can keep all of your engagements highly personalized and just as meaningful. These are, after all, times of worry and stress for so many, and again, as any effective wealth manager knows, your job is so much more than managing assets. It’s being a sympathetic ear, a counselor, a voice of reason and calm.

What are these tools? They are the ones that allow for customization and creativity, allowing you to be not just “in touch” with your clients, but connected with a level of personalization that makes it clear they are not just another number or a line on a spreadsheet. You know them, you understand them, you’re there for them, and your communications make that clear. Providing that kind of opportunity is at the core of our mission at Seismic.

What Schwab’s survey found is that the top advisors in the space clearly saw the power of personalization and have quickly moved to put the best systems and processes in place that allow them to be there as best they can for their clients. So while it might be true that the traditional “white glove” service is difficult to deliver in the current climate, technology provides meaningful ways to remain a consistent and calming presence for clients in this “white knuckle” world in which we’re living.

With all this in mind, I challenge you to answer these three questions:

1. Do I have access to technology to customize client communications in a completely compliant way?

2. Do I receive immediate feedback on my client’s level of engagement with tailored communications I have sent?

3. Do I have access to insights on the next best action to guide my clients to the best solution for her situation?