Knowing that someone caused this phenomenon may help you solve it.
The FCA Plays its Hand
The FCA is again banging the drum of “Treating Customers Fairly”, or is it “Fair Treatment of Customers”? No, stop; it’s actually “The Consumer Duty”. Whilst this initiative is very welcoming, their work on advisers and how they are supervised and managed has an equal impression on the mortgage sector.
The FCA has the microscope on the thousands of lone IFAs and Mortgage Advisers plying their trade under a Principal Firm. These advisers operate alone or in small disparent teams and must be self-motivated to succeed.
Our regulator wants to make sure these advisers are adequately managed, supervised and ultimately provided with motivation by their supervisors or managers. Many managers might find this challenging due to a lack of training.
I’m sure you’ve come across the popular term “Quiet Quitting”, which has recently been doing the rounds on social media. Agree or loathe it; you will have an opinion that tends to be polarised.
Most people over the age of 50 will be astonished by the concept. We entered the workplace at a very different time and dimension. I began work in 1982 smack bang in the middle of the nastiest and most fearsome recession known for many a year. Unemployment climbed to over 3 million, the UK industry was collapsing around us, and the downturn was biting deeply in every sector. I was also one of the children of the baby boomers. There were millions of us all looking for work.
Motivation isn’t something you sprinkle on people – it’s the environment you establish for the people to thrive.
Technology was nowhere near what it is today and gave a slight advantage to those who were good at it. You had knowledge and skills, but the one aspect that allowed you to shine was your work ethic. I knew that to get on, I had to work “beyond the call of duty”, and I did. I wasn’t afraid of it or felt it was wrong; I just did.
Who’s to Blame for Quiet-Quitting
1982 was a distinct era, light years away from today. We now live in a different world, and there’s a variety of reasons why many younger people are not feeling motivated or inspired. On balance, it’s not their fault – it might be ours.
Let me explain why it’s not their fault but probably ours:
- Social media allows people to share their woes and pick up others with similar views. This “group think” makes it seem ok.
- Some managers in the financial services sector follow Theory X styles. Not all the large corporates used to train managers well, but these teams have all been disbanded. A large chunk of managers in financial services is capable on the technical side but fairly mundane at management skills. It’s not their fault – they’ve never been trained. Instead, they pack in the qualifications on technical aspects and are superior at giving financial advice. They don’t know how to manage or motivate their staff.
- We still have a gamut of top-down management styles and structures—an old-fashioned hierarchy of boss and subordinate. Probably to do with risk management, decisions are often made at the top, and compliance delegates many controls to those at higher levels. The risk lens predominates.
- We have many rules. These come from compliance and risk avoidance. Although mandatory during the pandemic, working from home, for example, is becoming less encouraged by traditional management within our sector. Management by seeing people is the order of the day because that’s what many managers are used to.
- There is a lack of empowerment in newly qualified advisers and team members. Again probably due to compliance and risk fears. Every aspect of our work is rigid and process-driven to ensure sound advice and minimal risk to the business. Micromanagement is not intended, but systems and software manage now, not people. For many advisers, every aspect of their working day is matched with a computer input field and system entry.
- There is a perceived unfairness to aspects of work. Why should the boss be allowed to work from home more often than others? Just because she’s the boss. Why should she be on the golf course at 2 pm being entertained by some BDMs? How come she’s paid 50 times more than me? My frame of reference tells me this is normal, as that’s how it’s always been in my working life. But new younger employees possibly feel this is unfair.
- The labour market is tight now. There are plenty of jobs around, and unemployment is almost extinct. This gives people more confidence to express their views rather than hunker down, get on with their jobs, and be thankful they have a job.
- Is there a reliance on money and rewards to motivate and stimulate our advisers? The remuneration in financial services is undoubtedly high compared to other sectors. Wealth managers have been weaned on lucrative funds under management fees, with the rising stock market propelling these fees to ever higher levels. Mortgage advisers do well on procuration fees and commissions. Unfortunately, relying on money to motivate people only works to a certain degree. Younger people need money but pride themselves in desiring time off, better working conditions and an appealing culture. These are just as important as money.
How to Fix Quiet Quitting
So if it’s possibly our fault and the workplace culture we’ve created, then surely we must fix it. To provide an environment where young people can feel motivated and inspired to cancel “Quiet Quitting” and feel highly encouraged in their work. Here’s how:
- Pay them enough to keep the problem of money off the table. The cost of living crisis will affect everyone, and higher interest rates on our mortgages will pressure wages. Money is a hygiene factor and needs to be suitable; otherwise, it will cause discontent. Just look at the strikes currently stifling our economy. Money won’t ostensibly motivate someone to perform better in the long term.
- Give them flexibility in their work—allowing hybrid or flexible working practices. Working remotely when they wish to is essential to advisers, as is flexible hours if they’re employed, time off when needed, and paternity leave with pay. Again this is a hygiene issue and will only stop your advisers from being discontented.
- Allow more autonomy in their work whilst maintaining control and compliance with their advice work. Empower them to make decisions without causing client risk or business jeopardy. This is hugely motivational – the freedom to make decisions about their work.
- Allow them to work for a cause they believe in. Ensure your cause is known, authentic and resonates with the younger generation. Make it genuine, not something you stick on a poster in reception.
- Encourage and promote positive mental health in the workplace. Younger people and young-at-heart advisers value this more than ever before. Recognise what mental health is all about; believe me, not every manager in our sector does.
- Allow your advisers to do great work and receive feedback for it. Feedback from clients via testimonials and referrals. Regular feedback from their supervisor is vital. Peer recognition is essential to feel good and hold your head high. This is an intrinsic motivator, people feel it inside. Awards dinners don’t cut it, especially with free bars. It’s a counterculture to the one you need to develop.
- Let them gain mastery of their trade. Education and training should be fed regularly, not just because compliance says so. Let them advance their career if they want and learn skills to accelerate their development before they’re promoted not after. Help them to feel important and give them inspiring and exciting work.
- Let them progress, and give them the time to advance in their careers. Mortgage advisers are shown how to increase their permissions and become full advisers. IFAs into wealth management. Management, training, and compliance are all development routes for advisers.
Financial services have their ego, and the old ways still prevail. Many bosses over 50 have a distinctly different frame of reference to the younger people helping the advice sector move forward. Motivation isn’t something you sprinkle on people – it’s the environment you establish for the people to thrive.
“Quiet Quitting” isn’t new. Back in the day, people would leave the firm if that’s how they felt, and many still do. But these are all the effects of the cause. The cause we created can be changed, and it’s our duty.
Paul Archer is the author of nine books. His latest book, “Mortgage Advising – The New Rules” was published in March 2022 and is available on Amazon Watch Paul in Action on his YouTube Channel by going here http://www.paularcher.tv His LinkedIn Profile can be found here http://www.paularcher.uk and he welcomes your link