Your clients may be snowed in today, but that doesn’t mean you have to cancel your meetings.

Use technology and simple tricks to stay in contact even when distance creates communication challenges.

It’s tough holding meetings when people’s money, properties and families are separated by continents and clocks. But advisors must talk to decision-makers, even if it slows down planning, says Narinder Gaday, a planner with RBC in Vancouver.

Such consultations often take place via e-mail or over phone, he says. “But things can get misinterpreted. Also, the delay in [information exchange] due to time difference and poor technology can cause [clients to] lose out on profits from investing.”

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Tina Tehranchian, an advisor with Assante Capital Management in Richmond Hill, Ont., can relate. She has a client in Dubai, UAE, which makes it challenging to schedule calls or send time-sensitive communications. She sometimes schedules appointments on weekends.

“Difference in time zones can be problematic when deadlines are concerned,” she says. “Also, in Muslim countries, Fridays are holidays, so most offices are [either] closed on Thursdays or operate for half days. So you lose four working days of the week when you add Saturday and Sunday.”

And, while technology has vastly improved communication speed, it’s only as good as the infrastructure. In some countries, as shown by recent Indian outages, grid failures are frequent and disable all electronic interactions.

Failing to meet deadlines can cost dearly. In some countries, governments seize properties in the absence of adequate paperwork, says Tehranchian. And such problems extend to more routine transactions. She’s trying to set up a Locked-In Retirement Account for a client who travels extensively.

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“I mailed her the paperwork,” she says. “She signed and couriered them to me from California, but forgot to sign one form.”

By the time the error was discovered, the client was in Italy. And when Tehranchian finally heard from her via text message, she was on her way to Mali.

“We need the original signed copy of the locking-in agreement to send to her pension plan administrator [soon],” she says. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the courier service from Mali is as efficient as the one from the U.S.”

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