The Virtual Reality

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For the past few weeks after being exposed to yet another piece of game changing software I have been left to constantly go back to one train of thought – the life of face-to-face financial advice meetings is now over.

The reality is that we hate wasting time. Nothing wastes more time than travelling to and from meetings. We hate putting our day, week and family out to do something good for ourselves.

You can speak to any dentist or doctor; people rarely put their personal health high on the importance level. Waking up and being able to put on your shoes each morning is pretty important I think.

I see wealth the same as health. Very important to be in control of and just as important to be clear on what you need to be doing to stay on the right course to be successfully healthy.

Yet I could argue we ignore our need to look after ourselves and constantly do things to damage the otherwise common sense of taking care of yourself. We have I suppose got to thank evolution and can only laugh at human behaviour I guess.

This article was not planning to go too far down that road of thought but i just want to simply state that we do NOT make the time required for what is truly important in our lives and prioritise things that could and probably should wait.

So why do we delay, avoid and generally ignore what is important to do in our lives? I argue one word - pain!

The pain of putting our life on hold to prioritise something that is important for ourselves as it could delay something more FUN!

If we go back only a couple of decades, the phone was the only other means of communication. To run a professional or important meeting on a telephone was in one word impossible. At the best, very difficult. We wanted to be able to look the person in the eye; as that’s how you judge their character, integrity and of course we needed to assess just how good their handshake was.

This is no longer the world we walk around in today.

As the year 2000 came around, technology was literally starting its friendly crusade to rule the world. Video conferencing software such as Skype was now available to the general public and not just NASA. The early adopters as always loved it and told their also geek friends. It took awhile but Joe Public finally came around and society really caught on that this is something fun and incredibly good.

By the time the first iPhone came out in 2007 (A random trivia question I like to ask), we were starting to become more and more comfortable with seeing our friends and family in 2 dimensions. Even though we did not know it, it was beginning to revolutionise our world. We could now chat to our loved ones all over the world from the comfort of our leather couch and at the same time feed our three cats.

In 2011, Apple released Facetime on the iPhone and after internet data allowances and speeds struggled for a number of years, it’s now pretty common to see people holding their phones up to their faces as they walk into poles around the city.

While it all still seems a little weird and humorous to watch, we all know that what is weird today is normal tomorrow.

Only recently the worlds largest database of human intelligence (Facebook) released free video. Google had been killing them here for years with their video and Google hangouts, so it was only time Facebook came to the party and turned the volume up.

In Financial advice arena, generally speaking clients and planners have been slow on the uptake. Skype is occasionally used and for some smart planners it is used daily.

In other industries, it is generally accepted as the preferred form of communication for all communication. Within offices and boardrooms around the world, video conferencing is available at the click of a button.

Why fly from Sydney to LA, lose three days of travel and three years of life from jet lag? Wake up early one morning and chat to your American buddies over a better cup of coffee. No offence America.

As a business owner it’s great, we can run a meeting anywhere we need to be. As a client it is just as great as they can be anywhere they need to be. Australia, Asia or Africa as long as you have internet, we can do business.

What has been holding up this move to a virtual world however I ask?

Is it technology, is it what is acceptable and what is not or is generally systems and process to allow it to work?

I believe it’s a mixture of all these and I argue it is over.

One tool that is so important to me as a financial adviser is my pen. If you are a client you will have noticed that I like to draw, scribble and paint I like to call it.

While it looks horrible when I flick back through the pages, I like to think it makes sense. I never won a best in class art award and most of my clients know the standard joke I make when I realise I have nearly killed a tree in a meeting. I might have to address that as it goes against the name of Canopy and my love of nature however.

Why do I like to draw? Because I love to get my clients engaged around how the world works and to go deep in to thought about strategic advice. I feel the best way to explain to people is via imagery and a process of education.

This was always difficult on Skype and other software - not impossible but unnatural and difficult.

A second problem I found was showing documents and sharing screens. It was never as smooth and clear as it needed to be. It often overloaded the internet connection and we ended up spending five minutes playing the “Can you hear me?” ”No I can see you” game.

The good news though is these problems have gone away.

Apparently the government is putting some super fast (and expensive) internet to every household in Australia, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of NBN?

One of the benefits from such technology is our new friend bandwidth. Bandwidth and video conferencing make the perfect couple if there ever was one.

So if we have NOW have first world infrastructure, an ever increasing use of video in life and new software will there be a day when we no longer need to see our professionals face to face?

It might be a bit difficult to get the GP to diagnose the man-flu over “Skype” and tell you to toughen up but it’s also not as farfetched as it may seem.

I think we will run our lives from video and in financial advice the businesses who do not embrace it will be undoubtedly be left behind.

Let me introduce you to Suitebox. This is Craig Meek’s light bulb. The New Zealand (yes that’s important) entrepreneur who is disrupting the big boys with something so simple yet beautiful.

While it is just a software application that sits on an iPad, it now is the bridge between a client and adviser no matter where in the world they are in a dedicated private room. Now clients are able to see their adviser, view documents, fill in forms, electronically sign and even record their conversation. Just in case they need to sue them five years down the line when they should not have sold them that dodgy off the plan property.

What an experience!

In some ways, I believe many users would argue that it is much more enjoyable than face to face and the journey required to make it happen.

You see Suitebox is just one software provider. Sure there are others like Zoom.us, Join.me, Goto-meeting, Skype, Google hangouts but this is the first one that I feel really gets it.

I’ve decided that Canopy was going digital many months ago. Everything I do will be to make it easier and more enjoyable for my clients. I am utilising all the very best technology I can get my hands on to make their life better.

 I’ve now decided that my new reality is virtual reality.