You can lead a horse to water …

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You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, as the saying goes. One of the biggest challenges anybody working in Training and Competence faces, particularly for those of us who work within a predominantly wealth-management focused firm, is how to shift that focus into a more holistic-based advisory approach. Which generally means encouraging advisers to come out of their comfort zone and see the bigger picture.

Take an example of the adviser who is invited to review a new client’s retirement planning, often the start to a long-term business relationship. The adviser completes the fact find, meeting notes, attitude to risk, agrees the objectives, and makes the recommendation, which the client usually accepts. But suppose that client is self-employed, the sole income earner, has a wife, a couple of children, a mortgage, but no protection plans? From a compliance perspective this raises several questions regarding the adviser’s focus: Did they focus on the “lowest fruit on the tree”? Was this in a way some kind of “order take”? Is the adviser only looking for business that generates an ongoing income from funds under management? Is the adviser fully competent? Or is the adviser uncomfortable with discussing areas that they rarely deal in?

More likely to be effective is the encouragement of development through showing the advisers how beneficial a holistic-based advisory approach can be to both themselves and their clients.

Another example might be where an adviser considers the clients to be “too young” to make provision for inheritance tax planning. Which prompts the challenge “exactly how old do you have to be to plan for your beneficiaries not having an inheritance tax bill?” Assuming the adviser identifies the problem, surely this should be discussed and not discounted without discussion? Or was this not discussed or maybe discounted based purely on the advisers’ perspective? After all, the clients, once made aware of the problem, may wish to discuss potential solutions?

One final example. Most advisers will have within their client bank people who are business-owners or who are in senior management positions. Like the first example chances are that the adviser may deal with the retirement or some more complex piece of planning such as Annual Allowance. But what about the business? What protection plans does the business have for key individuals, or for loans, or for buying out partners or directors in the event of a critical illness occurrence, or buying out their beneficiaries in the event of death?

Common enough issues, but how to encourage a shift in focus? One option may be to use the “tell” approach by employing measurements such as a key performance indicator for “split of business” covering the full spectrum of advice authorised to be given, with minimum expected business levels. This is unlikely to be effective like so many “tell” scenarios. More likely to be effective is the encouragement of development through showing the advisers how beneficial a holistic-based advisory approach can be to both themselves and their clients.

A T&C Scheme could generate such encouragement through its approach to CPD.  A focus could be employed on those areas of financial planning that are rarely or less discussed, for whatever reason, such as business and personal protection. A careful selection could be made from the myriad of on-line webinars, however going direct to the product providers who usually are happy to set up a presentation may be more effective. Caveat that the information must be generic but allow scope for a light-handed pitch. Quid pro quo and all that. Split the audience into smaller groups which works better from an engagement perspective.

A special focus could be made on any areas that are unclear or appear to have information missing from fact finds and meeting notes when undertaking file checks. This might include things like when an existing mortgage is due for redemption, or a breakdown of monthly expenditure, or even lack of information on the client’s spouse or partner. Discuss with the adviser and agree an action point to acquire this information. Whereas this has the benefit of better knowledge of the client, it could also generate more and even wider business opportunities.

Product providers may be happy to demonstrate a specific tool or calculator to help, once the correct information has been obtained, how to produce a great presentation to secure the client, for example in the arena of business protection. And, of course, if income is a driver for the adviser, then the commission for a large insurance plan for both life and critical illness case would meet that criteria!

None of this is new, of course. For years we in the T&C world have been encouraging development in different ways. What this is about, however, is to work on the basis that persistence will pay off if we keep at it. We cannot make advisers become holistic. But we can lead and encourage them to develop and broaden their advisory scope. None of us like seeing opportunities being missed, and advice should go beyond what a firm wants and be more about what the clients need. Most importantly it adds value to what we do with and for our clients.

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About Author

I am a highly-versatile and forward thinking management professional with a history of successful delivery across more than thirty years’ in the Financial Services Industry. Core skills include assessing, training, coaching, process design and implementation, specialising in people, processes, and procedures within a Training & Competence or Learning & Development framework. Periodic writer for T-C News.com

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