The Top 5 Tasks Advisors Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants
Consider delegating front desk and back office support, as well as bookkeeping and social media management, to virtual staff.
Effective delegation is an important and often difficult objective to achieve for almost any business. This is especially true for solo practitioner financial advisors who don't have a staff to which they can assign tasks, but it can also be a challenge for much larger firms--from ensemble practices consisting of a few advisors and support staff, to large advisory firms with a regional or national presence. Regardless of business size, hiring staff is likely the first solution considered when an advisory firm is facing growth hurdles, yet there may not be room in the budget for a full or part-time employee. Further, and at least in the early stages of a growth hurdle, while an advisor may feel stressed by their workload and feel a need to delegate tasks, there may not even be enough work to justify hiring at all.
Thankfully, a virtual assistant can help with key administrative tasks that free up an advisor to spend more time with clients and on the things they do best, without the added complexities of hiring staff or the cost associated with hiring a full-time employee for what may not be a full-time job. In an age where it's possible to work from anywhere with an Internet connection, a virtual assistant can help solo practitioners break through growth barriers, or help larger firms more easily achieve staff augmentation for specialized tasks without having to be in the same geographic area as the advisor or firm. With the popularity of virtual assistants on the rise within the financial services industry, here are the top five tasks to consider outsourcing as an advisor or firm that could benefit from virtual staff.
Front Desk Support/Prospect Management
Some of the easiest responsibilities to delegate within an advisory firm are those typically required of a traditional secretary or front desk personnel. This starts with inbound call screening and prospective client inquiries, which can be handled by a virtual receptionist or call answering service. Rather than being interrupted by or potentially missing incoming calls, a virtual receptionist service can ensure all calls are answered by a live agent, even after business hours, and route them to the appropriate staff member or take a message. Some services are able to conduct additional tasks on your behalf, such as determining whether a prospective client would be a good fit for your firm, scheduling meetings with clients, and adding contacts and notes to your CRM software.
Custodian Account Maintenance and Back Office Support
It only takes a minute for a new client to sign their investment advisory agreement, but as most advisors know, opening accounts and facilitating account transfers can take weeks or even months. With the right processes in place, the preparation of account applications and associated paperwork can be delegated to a virtual assistant, freeing up an enormous amount of time. This is an area where it definitely pays to work with a virtual assistant that has knowledge of our industry, or better yet, one that specializes in working with financial advisors and has experience working with your account custodian. Once paperwork is reviewed and submitted, a virtual assistant can also track the status of the new account, transfer, or account maintenance request, following up with you as needed to make sure things stay on track.
Process and Workflow Creation
Advisory businesses of all sizes tend to struggle when it comes to efficiently documenting how they do the work they do, and organizing it in such a way that it is easy to understand for current and future staff. Creating processes and procedures is also a project most advisory businesses put off completing until they absolutely have to, which typically (and suboptimally) occurs when onboarding staff or after mistakes have been made. Virtual assistants is in a uniquely qualified position to tackle process and workflow creation, as they're able to take an independent view of your organization and provide honest feedback. Further, the more tasks you outsource to a virtual assistant, the more they are able to directly document those they are performing, while suggesting improvements to make their and your work more efficient. This is another area where it helps to be working with an assistant that knows the industry, as they're able to leverage experience with other businesses to help improve yours.
Advisors tend to enjoy working with numbers, and for some it can be hard to let go of managing their books. For others, staying on top of their accounting seems like a chore that they can't wait to outsource. Thankfully, a virtual assistant can likely handle administrative accounting tasks far more efficiently than an advisor, and perhaps even more efficiently than dedicated bookkeeping staff if the assistant is an accountant or specifically provides outsourced bookkeeping solutions to financial advisors. With most advisory businesses running on popular accounting software tools such as QuickBooks, finding support from virtual assistants that are familiar with your accounting software provider isn't difficult. With specialized experience working with other businesses using the same software, many may be even better versed in your accounting software than you or your staff.
Marketing/Social Media Management
Maintaining an engaged audience online is a challenging proposition for any business, and for many it can be an overwhelming task. Further, creating unique content is an intensive process, and most advisors struggle to find the time to do so with regularity. A virtual assistant or outsourced marketing service can help advisors create unique content for their blog, website, or other channels, and act as an accountability partner so advisors stick to a regular content calendar. They can also take the reins on an advisory firm's social media management by scheduling posts and engaging with the firm's online community. This can be a huge help to advisors who know they need a long-term marketing strategy but don't feel they have the time or motivation to create or stick with one. Additionally, advisors that may not be marketing gurus can make the best possible impression on prospective clients by leveraging the expertise of true marketing consultants.
Ultimately, advisors may find that their businesses stand to benefit from utilizing multiple virtual assistants that each have a specialized function, rather than a single assistant expected to take on everything from bookkeeping to account opening. This should be embraced, as it allows each assistant or service to focus on only the tasks at which they excel, providing the maximum value to your business. Given the rise in popularity of using virtual assistants within the financial advisor community, and the fact that most of the day-to-day work within an advisory firm can be done virtually, there are numerous advisor-focused service providers from which to choose and an ever-increasing number of tasks that can be outsourced to them.
Access Ben's article archive here. Ben Brown is a certified financial planner and an IRS-enrolled agent. He is the founder of Entelechy, a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm based in Bethesda, Maryland, serving clients in the Washington, D.C., area and nationally.
The author is a freelance contributor to Morningstar.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.