The Value of Soft Skills in a Financial Adviser’s Role


Michael Douglas is famous for quoting in the original Wall Street film – “Lunch is for Wimps”

The same quote can be used for soft skills. “Soft skills are for wimps”

A tad harsh but, ask advisers, trainers, coaches or managers in our industry, how important soft skills are, at the back of their mind, they may well agree with Michael Douglas.

Many have a reversion to soft skills. They think they are soft and squidgy. Unnecessary and impossible to teach or train. Better pump our budgets into hard skills like exams and knowledge – easy to measure the return on investment, the regulator wants it, CPD is achieved. Hard skills seem to win in all respects.

But we’re all wrong on soft skills and I’d like to prove it to you and attempt to convince you all to invest resources and budgets into developing advisers’ soft skills.

I’m going to put across 4 arguments

  • Soft skills are not what we think
  • Some facts and figures to prove the financial reward for soft skill development
  • The future of financial advising demands more soft skills
  • Gaining soft skills is easier and cheaper than we think

Soft skills are not what we think

You’ll all agree that every financial adviser needs these skills in their toolbox and ought to be part of their CPD. There’s more to soft skills than meets the eye.

Ask any technical trainer to define soft skills and their face contorts and they’ll tell you it salesey stuff, communication or they might utter it’s Emotional Intelligence, which is generally misunderstood by many people in our industry. “Advisers don’t need that stuff, we don’t sell, we advise, customers don’t want to be sold to anyway, besides we haven’t got time to develop soft skills and they don’t fit structured CPD”

How wrong. Consider that soft skills encompass:

  • Awareness – the ability to read others, understand their emotions and how to connect with them
  • Interpersonal communication – persuasion, influencing, speaking, listening, curiosity, presenting, rapport building, leading, motivating
  • Adaptability – creativity, change awareness, flexibility
  • Resilience – coping with your Inner Game, handling stress, building confidence, developing self esteem, bouncebackability, self motivation, handling setbacks.

You’ll all agree that every financial adviser needs these skills in their toolbox and ought to be part of their CPD. There’s more to soft skills than meets the eye.

Some facts and figures to prove the financial reward for soft skills

Here’s some stats for those analysts reading this article:

  • Sanofi-Aventis, an Australian pharmaceutical firm, enjoyed a 12% increase in sales after training its sales force in soft skills.
  • A major car dealer in the South West enjoyed a 38% uplift in sales of car maintenance products following soft skills training in August .
  • According to Hay/McBer Group, insurance agents trained in soft skills sold policies averaging £65,000 compared to less trained associates who sold policies averaging £28,000.

And for non sales people…

  • Recruiters trained in soft skills save the US Air Force £1.5 million per year, according to a report from the US General Accounting Office report.

The statistics speak for themselves. If well measured, quality soft skills training can improve results of the people being trained. I have many such ROIs to report. Maybe the challenge is to tighten up on our ROI work with companies to show a return rather than just rely on the ubiquitous and forlorn Happy Sheets. Another article for another day.

The future of financial advising demands more soft skills

The Sunday Telegraph published an exciting article last week on the future of bank branches. Nothing remarkable and the results won’t shock since the same prediction was made years’ ago. Here we have an artist’s impression


As you can see, there are no staff, just machines. But what’s interesting are the banks of video screens with real people behind them. Not in the branch of course, but back at HQ, wherever that could be. This is really important for soft skills and I’ll explain in a moment.

We need to predict the future expertly to determine the demand for soft skills. But is the future without advisers, just machines? Possibly. We need to look at hard future predictions, in other words, future predictions that are totally reliable as opposed to fantasy.

One such hard prediction comes from the general insurance market. Black boxes in cars. These are designed to tailor the cost of car insurance according to the risk of the driver. They are totally bespoke to the driver and charge according to how they drive, especially attractive to younger drivers who don’t inhabit the “hot hatch” 19 year old male habit of hacking around the streets late at night.

This same technology will be put into wrist watches and attached to people to assess their risk of dying, tailoring the cost of life and health insurance. DNA samples will predict the prospect of an early death or illness, thus determining the price.

Therefore no one needed to sell or be involved with the advice process. Perhaps we should shed our sacred cow that life assurance needs a salesperson, it doesn’t, it’s a commodity and black box technology to move this commodity in the future – no need for a factfind, no forms, no medical checks, no people, no soft skills.

But where does the future leave us?

Another hard prediction is omnipresent information available at a click. We have Google of course, we have Smartphones with access to 4G web, tablets, Google Glasses where the user is constantly on the web. Soon we’ll have Apple’s iWatch with access to the web. Samsung’s effort has failed like a damp squid, wait until Apple’s designers get their hands on it next year, you’ll just have to have one.

Consumers of our products and services have abundant information at their fingertips now. Reports have shown that people are not even relying on memory anymore, preferring to access Google for information that previously would have been memorised.

With information comes control of the buying and consumers have grasped this control and we won’t be able to take it away from them. Besides the average person doesn’t trust advisers, banks, insurance companies have a pitiful reputation amongst the public. Particularly the younger generation. They don’t want us to sell to them anymore, they now have control and will do the buying.

We say, “hold on, they need us to give advice”. They don’t. Computer algorithms will empower them to seek out what they need. Online systems will give advice and work out complex financial strategies and make recommendations that they can accept. Just by having access to high performing top quartile funds will not guarantee you business. Consumers will have access to these and platforms automatically, without the need for an adviser. Technical capability will become less and less importance since the consumer can educate themselves. And they will want to, believe me.

Other professions are struggling with this. White Collar workers across the piste are seeing computer software and complex algorithms replace them. Solicitors who have long gorged on fat fees are seeing their online rivals grabbing market share. Consumers no longer value the Chesterfield Sofa in reception and the tomes of legal manuals on the shelf; they prefer a 30 minute Skype conversation with Solicitors Direct dot com. Other professionals, architects, accountants are seeing the end of their gravy chain.

So where does this leave us on soft skills. To survive in the face to face advisory market you have got to get spectacularly good at communication, funds don’t give you a competitive advantage, you will. Your ability to communicate at an intense level may well guarantee you a future but only with a certain demographic –the high net worth who value time more than anything else. For the vast majority of advisers, we have to get extremely good at communicating, influencing, recognising their personality, tailoring our message to them, asking intelligent questions. What I call dynamic communication. But online.

Back to my bank branch of the future now and micro expressions.

Somebody once asked me why humans need eyebrows. My reply was something like “to stop sweat dripping into the eye”. Nonsense, the real answer is to communicate. Eye brows allow for micro expressions. A growing industry of micro expression experts has hit the internet on a par with social media marketing experts. If I hear someone else proclaiming they are an expert in Social Media, I’m going to scream, they’re on every street corner.

The use of video is driving this and that’s the last argument I’m going to give you for investing in soft skills. In the future the vast majority of financial advisers will interact with consumers via video screens and the face will be maximised on the high definition screen. With HD comes detail and comes micro expressions. Clients are asking me to improve the way their advisers use the facial language to convey messages and I’m referring them to micro body language experts to handle this.

We’re familiar with Skype, telepresence rooms, virtual reality, video. The internet and high speed broadband access for 100% of the population will drive this. The use of Smartphones with 4G access will transport your face to your customers to advise and communicate.

So we’ll need highly defined soft skills to be able to do this. Face to face communication will be via the web and the winners will have mature soft skills.

Gaining soft skills is easier and cheaper than we think

“It’s expensive putting people into a classroom to develop their soft skills”. “We don’t have budgets for that”. “Put it on the eLearning system”. “Buy something off the shelf to teach them that”. “Our internal trainers can do that”

Times are moving very rapidly for the training sector. If you think technology has changed the profession, think again, it’s only just starting. Again, the detail is in another article.

Let’s leave it that eLearning will be going through some seismic changes over the next few years making soft skills development available via the internet at a fraction of the cost. YouTube, video, virtual classrooms, experts on tap, Smartphone accessible will replace text on a screen Learning Management Systems. At last soft skills can be delivered remotely.

So maybe I’ve convinced you, maybe I haven’t. Your views would be interesting. I’ve set up a hashtag on Twitter if you want to express your opinions. #softskillsvalue I’ll keep an eye of the feed and comment in return.


About Author

Avatar photo

Paul Archer is an Online Sales Trainer, Speaker and Conference Host. He’d be happy to assist you in moving your workshops online during this challenging period. Email him on or LinkIn with him at The world of sales development has changed, many have missed this and boldly go on to run courses in the old-fashioned way. You want to develop your people – professional advisers, salespeople, coaches - and know there is a better way. He can help you. Think about music. I mean the music industry. In 2000 music became free, illegally at first with Napster, downloads became cheap as chips and streaming now cost $10 a month. In the same way, traditional self-development is now free. Everything is available online. Music artists and bands now make their money performing live. The live experience is what fans will pay money for. Recorded music is merely to create demand for the live experience. He brings his 35+ years of sales expertise and experience to you in two ways: Online, on-demand, just in time. He doesn’t run “just in case” training courses, they’re a thing of the past. Development should be “just in time”. Curated video, live videocasts and webinars, podcasts — books, articles and blog posts delivered via his Learning Platforms, YouTube or your in-house systems. Live. He can bring his expertise to your teams in live sessions, but these are rare now and need to be exceptional events. Conferences, seminars and events, he can educate, entertain them with my unique speaking style that has been enjoyed by thousands of sale people and advisers across the globe. Forty-five minutes, 2 hours, maybe a day – you choose. You figured there was a better way to develop your sales teams, you are right, and now you may want to make contact with him so you can talk further. You can Linkin with him at, and he’ll start a conversation or head to his YouTube Channel for more at email him at or phone him on +44 7702 341769, and where ever you are in the world he’d love to hear from you. Paul is a prolific writer and blogger – maintaining three blogs, with attracting thousands of hits from all over the world. He has published eight books. His latest tome "Pocketbook of Presentation Skills” was released in January 2020 and is available from Amazon. The third edition of his book “Train the Trainer of the 21st Century” is also available from Amazon.

Leave A Reply