Are there better virtual meeting solutions than Teams and Zoom?

Are there better virtual meeting solutions than Teams and Zoom?

With working from home becoming business as usual for many of us, including financial advisers, I decided to ask the following question:

Are the tools that were initially embraced by advisers out of pure necessity, following the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, the most appropriate going forward?   

Many advisers might have initially engaged with stand-alone virtual meeting software such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack as these offered them a quick and easy solution to ensure remote meetings could take place with their clients. These stand-alone meeting tools are simple and easy to use however, the basic versions are limited to simple video meetings only and not necessarily the most affective for long-term use.

6 months on, is now the time for advisers to be looking at specialist solutions that are tailored to financial adviser firms?

Specialist services like Glia, Unblu and Suitebox can offer an advantage over the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams as they have been developed to support an entire client journey rather than just the client meetings.  Whilst stand-alone services can be used in conjunction with adviser tools, the advantage of using specialist services is they can offer a far deeper integration into the software advisers might have such as their practice management systems.  On top of this they have the potential for tighter record keeping where recordings and other documents being shared during a meeting can automatically form part of the client record.

One of the companies in the specialist market is Unblu, who are supporting both advisers and their clients in maintaining an ongoing relationship remotely.  Like the stand-alone software providers Unblu offers its users the ability to conduct virtual meetings.  However, where Unblu differs is in its ability to meet the collaboration needs of a face-to-face adviser meeting something the stand-alone software providers are less equipped for.

Danny Baggs, Director of Marketing UK & US at Unblu says: “This is where a connected platform excels as it facilitates interaction at all points in the client journey, no matter whether that is helping to secure initial meetings from interested website visitors or in-depth existing client portfolio reviews and the lighter touchpoints in between”.

Unblu offers users the ability to start live chats, send secure messages, conduct video and voice calls, co-browse and screen share all from within the one platform.  The platform is web-based and therefore no software installation is needed.  This presents quite a strong advantage over the likes of Zoom that still require users to download and install their software, introducing an unnecessary hurdle for advisers and clients a like.

An existing clients or prospects journey might start by visiting a firm’s website and this is where the live chat functionality comes into play.  Live chat  allows adviser firms to be available whenever a client/prospect needs assistance.  Using Unblu’s Chatbot API a client or prospect is initially welcomed by a bot when visiting the adviser’s website.  The bot then helps engage and guide the visitor appropriately before being transferred over to a human operator.  With the conventional 9-5 slowly becoming a thing of the past this feature allows firms to support and guide their customers anytime of the day knowing that a bot will provide quick responses to questions in real time whilst also ensuring the conversation smoothly transitions to an adviser once one is available or needed.  During business hours the bot can guide site visitors to an adviser and out of office hours let them know the adviser will be back in touch as soon as possible whilst partly investigating their question. 

Once a relationship has been built, it is important for a client/customer to know that they can reach out to their adviser easily, securely and when it suits them.  Unblu helps customers and advisers engage with each other more effectively in a variety of ways (for example via secure text messaging, video and voice calls).  A feature I particularly like is Unblu’s ability to integrate their secure messenger, via APIs, into third-party solutions such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger making it easily accessible for advisers and clients to reach out to one another.  If a client or adviser is not online when a message is sent the system will automatically send an email out notifying them that a conversation has been started.   

Video or voice calls can be initiated by either the customer or adviser when it is deemed appropriate.  This can be done at a specified time or during a live chat session.  During video or voice calls advisers can use screen sharing or co-browsing technology to help aid their conversations.  Once a video or voice call ends, the recording is automatically encrypted and securely saved. A customer file is set up and will include a full history of all recorded voice and video calls between the customer and adviser ensuring a complete and compliant audit trail is kept.

A feature commonly used during virtual meetings is screen sharing.  This allows users to share documents, screens and even websites with call participants.  In most face to face meetings advisers will ask their clients to complete and sign a variety of documents.  Although screen sharing allows participants to share and view documents it does not allow them to collaboratively work on them with each other in the same way they would face to face.  To meet this need Unblu offers co-browsing functionality.

Co-browsing not only allows advisers to share their screens with their clients but allows both parties to interact and collaborate with each other in a similar manner to a face to face meeting.  Co-browsing allows both parties to simultaneously work on the same document and/or online application in real time.

Danny Baggs says: “Video solutions are being chosen as advisers consider how they can emulate face-to-face meetings. This overlooks the collaborative nature of those in-person meetings for example advisers guiding clients through complex paperwork and research or reviewing a portfolio together”.

I particularly like Unblu’s ability to co-browse within secure and authenticated environments such as e-banking applications using its ‘SecureFlow Module’.  With co-browsing, documents can be completed collaboratively and subsequently signed using the integration with DocuSign.  Unblu have confirmed that integrations are available with alternative industry based electronic signature system subject to the APIs being available from the service.  Whilst stand-alone screen sharing services can provide some of this it does present a certain level of risk for example unintentionally disclosing another clients’ information.

All Unblu’s features are available within a broader platform that help to facilitate the whole client journey.  Using Unblu an Adviser can have an initial video chat with their client, guide them through question-and-answer exchanges using messaging, send the client additional information and materials through a secure channel and follow up with them in a video meeting where co-browsing is available.  This means that all conversations are ongoing as well as synced across different forms of interaction and channels ensuring a convenient client experience throughout. 

Unblu Indicative Pricing:

Users Price (Per User, Per Month)
10 (minimum) £300
50 £150
100 £117

Please note, these prices are for guidance purposes only.  All prices shown above are indicative, exclusive of professional services/installation costs and EX-VAT.

Adam Says:

“Although the uptake of virtual meetings by the financial adviser community was accelerated as a result of the country going into lockdown, I believe as things ease and in time offices re-open the use of virtual meetings will continue to rise and so, it is important for adviser firms to ensure they are using the most appropriate solution possible.    

Unblu offers the financial adviser community with functionality that can help bridge the gap between face to face and virtual adviser meetings”. 

 

Good Features:

  • As the platform is web-based there is no software installation needed

Great Features:

  • Unblu’s Chatbot API
  • The ability to integrate the secure messenger into third-party solutions such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
  • The ability to co-browse and collaboratively complete documents.

Improvements:

  • It would be great to see auto-transcription (voice to text) functionality included as part of the tool.

About The Author

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Adam joins FTRC from Willis Towers Watson where he spent four years as a paraplanner. Prior to this Adam worked at Succession Group, assisting their advisers in delivering product recommendations to the company’s private clients, and Vintage Financial Ltd, a medium sized London-based IFA firm. As a Research Consultant, leading the development of the AdviserSoftware.com site (publishers of FTRC) and maintaining the Adviser Software Insight report, Adam brings first hand experience as an administrator and paraplanner working for various firms using multiple systems. Outside of work, Adam enjoys spending time with his wife and baby, watching films and follows Manchester United Football Club.

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