YOUR PRACTICE-The rise and rise of the virtual financial adviser

Fri Mar 7, 2014 8:00am EST
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By Deborah L. Cohen

CHICAGO, March 8 (Reuters) - Most of Sophia Bera's financial planning clients have never met her in person, and they don't seem to care.

Bera, a newly minted financial adviser in Minneapolis, operates almost completely online. The majority of her clients are twentysomething millennials, and most of them are outside Minnesota.

"I work with clients in their 20s and 30s around the country," says the fee-only planner who charges a monthly retainer for her services. "We use Skype meetings and email follow-ups, and it works out really well."

Bera has staked a claim to online business. Although she started her practice less than a year ago, she already writes a regular blog, maintains a robust website and participates in "tweet chats" on Twitter about topics such as building financial security and how couples handle money. She says she never turns down an opportunity to give herself more online media exposure.

Bera represents an extreme example of the trend toward remote service in the wealth management industry. It has taken hold with clients who are both more tech-savvy and more time-constrained. Meanwhile, user-friendly technologies such as affordable cloud-based video platforms allow virtual meetings to achieve a personal feel.

"I actually think it's much more convenient," says Chris Hoffman, a 28-year-old Colorado Springs, Colorado, client of Bera's who has never met her in person. Instead he and his wife, Britta, 30, meet with her via Skype as their work and home schedules dictate.

"We can usually find a time pretty easily," says Hoffman, adding: "We worked with a local planner here for a couple of years. It was just a challenge to get over to his office."   Continued...