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This is part 4 of a 12 part interview with Dennis Crawford. In this segment, Andrew and Dennis discuss communication and technology.

Dennis Crawford InterviewCommunication and Technology

Dennis: I agree with that very much, in this world so technology-driven it’s easy to undermine the face to face communication or take sort of the side road. It’s easier for me perhaps on many levels to shoot an e-mail up to somebody rather than to take it on personally whether it’s over the phone or face to face but unfortunately what you lose in that is you lose the humanity in that. You lose the personal inflections, for me to rattle on five sentences in an e-mail and to deliver those five sentences sitting face to face like we are right now, can be two very different communications, right? In a large or majority of the communication is lost if we’re not actually doing it from a people business type perspective. It has a colder more calculated way of doing it.

Now having said that, I don’t mean to minimize the effectiveness of texting and e-mail and so forth obviously it’s a huge, huge tool but it seems to me that in.. especially in today’s fast moving digital age I think it’s extremely important that we don’t lose the human touch; otherwise we all take on the feeling of droids or robots to some degree or much more than we’re used to.

Andrew: Yeah, definitely. So.. yeah there’s really a huge importance when it comes to that humanness and that communication. I know that Derek Sivers over at CD Baby talked about the same thing. When e-mails would go to customers they wouldn’t just read YOUR NAME HERE it would actually say CD Baby loves this person so just that little touch made that huge difference in his business for sure.

Dennis: Absolutely, it’s not just a data dump when communicating with somebody. Here’s what you need to know BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH in written form certainly from a marketing perspective, you need to create some sort of connection or emotion to truly establish a strong customer client advisor type relationship.

You know I did my first.. show my dinosaur age here.. I did my first Skype actually my first FaceTime client review with a client.. it was a new client so it was more a client presentation between Calgary and Vancouver so it’s a contact of mine in Vancouver, it’s not convenient for us to get together. So we did it on FaceTime and this particular client would be about your age so they’re a little bit more up to speed on communicating in this way. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much more effective this FaceTime communication was rather than just a straight telephone communication because of my ability to give and receive personal inflections in our conversation. So my hands are flying around and I’m smiling or I’m growing or I’m winking or whatever the issue is. There’s so much more communication that flows back and forth when you have that.

So technology in that respect is huge. It allows you as a business owner for myself as a business owner to really communicate at much, much higher level at remote distances that we could maybe 10 years ago so I think that’s a really exciting thing that’s developing in future trends for human communication. And even if it’s a digital display on the TV, we still get that personal effect to some degree through that kind of medium. So that’s interesting to me, I’m excited about that going forward.

Andrew: Yeah you definitely can’t negate the effect of technology on communication and what that allows us to do which makes it a small world.

Dennis: Exactly, it’s not a replacement but a tool.

Andrew: What would you say are kind of the trends that you see coming in your industry?

Dennis: Well I have some.. I guess that’s a broad question so I guess if I can narrow that down…

Andrew: Sure.

Dennis: My industry for a number of years like many industries has been under a period of consolidation so firms have been buying up other firms and it’s get bigger or go home type mentality.

When I first started i our industry back in.. 1990, we had a different feel about the industry and we certainly had a lot more smaller independent players but much like the global trends in many other industries there’s been consolidation going on. So banks have been buying these firms, insurance companies have been buying those and so forth.

Today, myself being affiliated with Desjardins, that’s not because I applied for a job with them but because my company’s been purchased two or three times over the years and here’s kind of where I’ve landed by virtue of that process. So in the investment industry in the whole that’s a very, very common trend.

There’s been huge, huge, huge expansion to client choice in my industry so there’s a massive amount of product available and because of that my personal belief is that because of that there’s actually more need for advice. Which is a big part of my value proposition is helping people to make good decisions particularly in strenuous circumstances. There’s even more value for advice, but the products we distribute whether it’s a Canadian stock product or a global bond product or a risk protection insurance product, the amount of choice to the consumer is absolutely huge. In an age of specialization, having so much choice you really need somebody in your camp that can help you walk through all of this because it’s almost overwhelming. As good as the internet is in flowing information around if you have an overwhelming amount of data coming at you it’s of little value there’s not much you can do with it.

Say for example you decide that you want investing 100 dollars a month towards your future retirement some day, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make from that point until you actually end up moving to execution and implementing a plan. You know you have a lot of things to consider and even when you get to the product stage, the product shelf is so wide and diverse that you’re almost falboragated with information that you get into that vortex of paralysis by analysis and you end up doing nothing or making a decision that’s just a snap decision that isn’t really as thorough as it could be.

So in my business I think there is a stronger demand for individual entrepreneurial people like myself that really want to develop the human connection with a client, take the time to truly understand them, their needs, their desires, their positioning, their situation and then provide solutions to that person that makes sense.

Our major competitor is retail banking but retail banking has its challenges by virtue of what it is. They’ve mastered the model of mass distribution by huge marketing budgets, they build branches on every corner and they staff it with salaried employees. They have a huge expensive distribution model and because of that like the Walmart model they have to run a lot of people through there so they drive massive market machines in brick and mortar tangible distribution to bring people in but once you come into the banking environment it kind of has a cookie cutter feel to it, right? You see this person in this office who you won’t see next year when you go to review your investment selections or what have you because of the turnover in the banking environment. Not so much that they’re leaving the bank itself but the whole mobility structure in the banking system is to try to get away from the customer. The customer interaction is sort of the entry level, the tellers if you will, the front counter people in the banking system. So that the new person in the bank wants to get off the day to day transactions handling people coming in depositing or whatever they’re doing in the counter and move off to the corner office where they get to have 20 minute meetings with investment clients, then they want to get out of that office into the managers office, and then out of the mangers office into bankers hall to start regional work and start their ascension up the corporate ladder in bankers hall so to speak.

Our model’s a bit different, our model is much like yours. It’s very, very relationship business, it’s very personality driven and all the clients that I deal with deal with me because we’ve invested time together over the years to develop a relationship of understanding. I know this client, I know to some extent at least what makes them tick, what their temperaments are, how they’ll respond in certain stock market conditions and so forth. And it allows the consumer at the end of the day to make better decisions really what it is.

What I describe to some people is what we really try to do is function like a little bit like an angel on your shoulder to help you make good choices. You know I’m not interested in selling anybody something per say or meeting a product objective any more than you’re interested in whether I buy this product from you or that product from you. What you really want to do is provide the customer a satisfactory above average experience, whatever it is that they end up purchasing at the end of the day. In that respect our businesses are relatively similar. They’re very people driven.