Clients who meet with Panagiotis Leledakis, LUTCF, might find themselves walking into a meeting room in a space station, with windows showing faraway galaxies. Their avatar sits at the conference room table with Leledakis’ avatar, discussing everything from insurance to estate planning in real time — even though the meeting is taking place digitally and the clients may not even be in the same country.
Leledakis, a 21-year veteran of the profession, believes the future of financial services lies in the increased use of technology. “Eighty-five percent of millennials think we are an old-fashioned profession with no technology and innovation,” he said. “This is partially true, so we have to speed up the digital transformation in our industry.”
To do that, he has spent the last eight years researching and implementing cutting-edge technology in his business, including virtual reality. The two-year MDRT member from Marousi, Greece, has complemented the digital strategy with another strategy based in neuroscience and the intricacies of understanding clients’ perceptions of risk.
The combination has led to an increase in clients, a training academy for other advisors and a college course for financial services students based on a curriculum Leledakis and a team of scientists, including neuroscientists, created together.
And, while Leledakis spent much of his time using trial and error to find the best way to operate digitally, he said there are some secrets to make it easier for others to get started.
Use the right equipment
Getting started with digital for teleconferencing or social media doesn’t have to cost much, other than your investment of time, Leledakis said. But adding some high-quality equipment can increase your professional look.
“I decided to make 70% of my business and my meetings digital about eight years ago,” Leledakis said. His first step was educating his clients, especially the most skeptical ones, on how to use digital tools, and convince them it was a simple process to connect with his team.
Then he added the right equipment. “We have a green screen studio, microphones, all the equipment we need to create an outstanding teleconference anywhere in the world.” He primarily uses Zoom, but also Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google hangouts, Viber and WhatsApp, as needed.
The first thing Leledakis does when preparing for a teleconference is create a professional-looking digital background using the teleconference software. “Then you only need a green screen and some lighting,” he explained. He also uses lavalier microphones and a microphone clip for better sound quality.
Hire the right staff
When he decided to go digital, Leledakis knew he had to invest in a certain kind of employee. “You have to pick the right people who don’t need you over their shoulder all the time in order to work. And you have to have a collaboration system,” said Leledakis, who uses Asana and Todoist for project management with his team.
Target the right clients
The next step was making sure his clients would embrace technology, as Leledakis branches into virtual and augmented reality, something many millennials are familiar with through video games.
“I’m targeting millennials because they have the equipment, and because research shows that in the next two or three years, virtual reality is going to be the new norm,” he said. “We’re working with this technology to approach primarily affluent millennials. There are also VR communities where you can meet people as avatars, and it is a truly innovative prospecting method.”
Leledakis has also been working on using holograms in augmented reality, where he and his client could be in the same room together and see each other in real time. He has already used this technology to give speeches in the United States while he’s in his studio in Greece.
When the pandemic hit
Leledakis found the technology he had in place made all the difference when the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns hit. “We had all the tools to communicate very fast with them, with newsletters, instant messaging and webinars,” he said. He uses software that allows up to 5,000 people to join the virtual events and live streaming tools that can have unlimited attendees.
For one webinar, he invited a child psychologist to talk about how parents can help their children during the lockdown. He sent the invitation to clients, and encouraged them to share it with friends.
“We also took the invitation, which was a one-minute video, and posted it in social media groups, forums and blogs for parents,” he said. “The invitation said at 2 p.m. Wednesday, you can just click this link, and from the comfort of your home, you can see this very important speech.”
The result? More than 500 clients and 1,200 prospective clients signed up.
After the psychologist spoke, Leledakis spent about 10 minutes talking about risk management, and how his firm can help identify, prioritize and quantify them through their custom software. If the person was interested in knowing more, they could fill out a short form with their name, email and phone number at the end of the webinar.
Five hundred people were interested, which resulted in 150 appointments and 70 new clients
in a two-month period.
Leledakis prospects digitally, using social media such as LinkedIn. He goes to the social media account of someone he knows and researches who they interact with the most, for instance with comments or likes on posts. He chooses three people who are interacting with the person he knows.
“I do that for 10 people I know every day, and seven out of 10 give me permission to contact three or four people I have identified. I ask if we can make a three-person group chat with me, the client and the person I’d like to meet. So that’s about 30 new referrals every day,” he said. Leledakis then asks for a 10-minute digital appointment with the prospect, and in the chat the client reassures his friend that it’s worth it to see Leledakis’ risk assessment methodology.
“If I do it five times a week, that’s 150. It’s 600 new referrals every month. It’s a good way to do things now, and it’s a very simple concept.”
The use of customized messaging through apps like Viber, and chatbots that answer questions while he sleeps, keep Leledakis connected to prospects and clients 24 hours a day.
And while he acknowledges that in-person interaction has its benefits, from a business perspective, digital makes more sense to him.
“I can meet five, seven or 10 people a day on digital, or two appointments in person,” he said. “For important clients, I find the opportunity to meet them in person sometimes, but especially for potential clients, I want to evaluate them first. I don’t want to get to an appointment and find out they’re not interested.”
But it’s the combination of advising and technology that creates the best outcome for clients, Leledakis said. “Nobody can take the place of an advisor, because we need to educate the client before we advise them. If people understood the risk and wanted to find a solution, we wouldn’t be needed. They need education. That’s where we come in.”
Overriding objections by understanding neuroscience
When Leledakis started in financial services, he was frustrated that people didn’t understand how some risks can ruin your life and that insurance could help minimize the risk. He had a friend who, in 2009, was a new neuroscientist. They decided to research together why people had such a hard time with this concept.
What they learned was that people have an “optimistic bias” that keeps them from feeling anything is going to happen to them, because the brain is trying to protect itself from pain and fear.
“In our industry, we know now that we’re using the wrong method when we use raw fear in consulting with people,” Leledakis said. “There is a freeze effect because every brain has a fear tolerance level, and when you exceed this level, the brain freezes.”
Leledakis compares it to an animal that runs in front of a car and freezes when the front lights are hitting its eyes. When you approach clients with fear, they either don’t listen or don’t have the strength to make a decision, so they end up procrastinating. The research also showed it’s hard for people’s brains to change opinions.
So instead of using a fear-based approach, Leledakis has worked with his team to develop risk management software that measures every risk for a person, and then he can prioritize and quantify the risks. “With this risk management consulting, we can get around the brain functions and help people make wiser decisions in this matter,” he said. “And we totally differentiate our firm from all the others.”