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Directors demand new adviser skills and behaviours

Business owners and directors say that changing client expectations since RDR mean they are looking for different skills and behaviours in their advisers, writes Fiona Bond

The introduction of the RDR promised a shake-up in the financial advice industry. From increased qualifications to a change in the charging structure, the new rules were put in place to improve transparency and fairness for clients.

But while clients were at the heart of the sweeping changes, firms also benefited greatly, according to Robert Forbes, chartered financial planner at Stadden Forbes Wealth Management.

“Industry-wide, RDR has forced us to really look at our businesses. No other industry has been run as shambolically as financial advice so the RDR has been great in moving the old traditional style of business to a more modern model,” he says.

In a post-RDR world, Forbes says his focus would be upon adviser behaviours to ensure they fit with the company.

“In the old world, a great number of advisers were self-employed within a firm. I think more modern firms are now directly employing people, which means a change in behaviours – they have to fit firmly into a process. For us, we would expect someone to really understand the company culture and become part of it.”

While qualifications are undoubtedly important, Forbes believes they do not form the sole basis of a great adviser.

“For me, it’s about direction of travel. If someone young approached me, without all the qualifications but with commitment and passion for the industry, I would certainly consider them.”

Showing commitment to financial planning has become a more common requirement post RDR in order to address clients’ changing expectations, which are being driven by the plethora of information available via the internet and events such as the pensions freedoms.

Dominic Thomas, director of Solomons Financial Planning, says: “I believe people look much more for financial planning. They’re not so interested in the transactional aspect of the business, they want and expect to receive good service over the longer-term.”

Thomas says while sales skills are still an important tool to have, advisers need to be able to sell something different – a service rather than a product.

He says: “While there is still some way to go, clients are better informed and their expectations are higher. They don’t want a door-to-door sales approach, they want a financial planner who will look after their needs.”

When employing an adviser, he says, his expectations wouldn’t focus on the sales side of the business. He would look for someone who could apply systems and controls and he would also want an adviser who was creative enough to have dynamic conversations with clients and forge long-term relationships.

He says: “One of our measures of success is how long a client has been with the firm. I would ask any prospective adviser where they would expect to get their new business from and how many clients they felt they could realistically look to service a year. That would give me a good idea of how much time and effort they would put into maintaining each relationship.

“I would want someone open-minded willing to learn new skills and I would avoid those too heavily focused upon CPD box-ticking.”

Forbes shares the view that clients have come to expect different things in the new advice world.

He says: “Most clients don’t care too much about whether a particular investment has gone up or down in any given year, they are much more focused on the bigger picture. They want to know whether they can stop work and spend more time with their family, so conversations tend to centre much more on their long-term financial plan.”

Pete Matthew, managing director, Jacksons Wealth Management agrees that advisers have been forced to change their approach to keep in line with what clients want.

“The core skills of an adviser haven’t changed since RDR; they still need to be client-centric and able to sell. However, an old-style financial adviser looking to flog loads of products just wouldn’t survive in the new world.”

Matthew says if he were recruiting, he would look for an adviser who fully understands that the focus is now much more upon a client’s long-term plan.

“Company culture is of primary importance and any new adviser would need to show people skills and competence to fit in. In an age where you can buy almost anything online, people don’t go to advisers to be sold a product. They want a plan for the future and they want to see and feel like they’re moving forward.”

Fiona Bond is a freelance business writer and journalist

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