For 21 years, we have been meeting with clients in person, for dinner, for golf, to review their financial statements and more. It's the way we've always done business. But given how fast technology is changing the business, even society, will future financial planners even meet face-to-face with clients?

They will ― but only if the experience is the right one.

Let's unpack that. First, it's important to note how new technologies are transforming the financial landscape at an ever quicker pace. Just consider the magnitude of online resources currently available to our clients: allocation, planning and budgeting tools which pair with financial calculators and bill paying services, which then marry to legal zoom for their estate plans and turbo tax for their annual filings. Every day new capabilities are added and new connections made in this digital suite.

So then… what reason will clients have to meet with us personally? After all, they have 24/7 access to their investments and financial plan, and more is demanded of their waking hours in our technologically-driven society. In this environment, personal relationships are taking a backseat.

But what we've learned during our careers is that clients fully engage when discussing their goals, dreams, fears and passions rather than their financial stuff. There is a more personal, intimate connection when broaching these topics compared to the financial areas which have traditionally dominated advisor-client meetings.

And as we forge ahead?

Let’s continue to strengthen our planning techniques to center toward meaningful conversation with our clients, we then remain relevant and even invaluable to them as we progress through these rapidly changing times. To illustrate an example, we recently met with a client approaching retirement and asked him what his biggest fear was going into this new life phase. He shared that his father had always been a very active man through his working years. Now, in his early 70s and still in good health, the client's father spends his days watching TV and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Our client's biggest fear about retirement turned out not to be about portfolio allocation or distribution or some other financial metric ― it was about losing his ambition and zest for living. We're addressing that as part of our ongoing conversations with him, but can you imagine a robo advisor having such an intimate conversation? Of course not.

(Bloomberg News)
(Bloomberg News)


As a society, we will continue to see more ease of access to data, and as AI becomes smarter (think IBM’s Watson), it will become increasingly difficult to compete by ways of creative planning or sound investments.

The good news for us human advisors is that AI can’t replace human compassion, empathy and connectedness. Both relationship and meaningful conversation aren't lost arts. They'll be at the center of what financial planners do, and these are not skills replicable by a robot.

Such skills or emotional intelligence will continue to become a more integral part of our repertoire as advisors. Fortunately, there are a myriad of resources available online which can help increase EQ as we orchestrate these conversations more regularly with our clients.

By doing so, we'll be doing ourselves and our clients a favor.

Christopher Giambrone

Christopher Giambrone

Chris Giambrone is an advisor and co-founder of CoughlinGiambrone, an independent financial consulting firm based in New Hartford, New York.
Dennis Coughlin

Dennis Coughlin

Dennis Coughlin is an advisor and co-founder of CoughlinGiambrone, an independent financial consulting firm based in New Hartford, New York.