What Makes a Good Adviser?

(and how the pandemic has changed the answer)

When I speak to Financial Advice organisations about the qualities that make a good adviser I am struck by the consistency of replies. They almost universally agree that the required qualities divide into 2 components – the practical and the human.

The practical requirements encompass such factors as those listed below:

  • The pre-requisite of having appropriate qualifications
  • A strong appreciation of the demands of regulated environments
  • Being super organised
  • Having the ability to analyse complex data and develop robust flexible financial plans
  • However, it is when leaders in advisory firms talk about the human factors that their eyes become misty and the passion shows through.

The Financial Adviser as a human being needs to be able to:

  • Empathise with clients to uncover the real drivers of their future financial plan – what is practical and what route works for an individual
  • Build up the client’s confidence in both their financial plan and their partnership with the adviser
  • Gently guide the client. Financial planning may start out as numbers, but it is linked to very human needs and outcomes. Using their experience, the good adviser helps the client see the most practical route to their desired outcome
  • We all know financial plans adapt and the good adviser is constantly thinking about the impact of events on his or her clients and how they can help them.

The ‘human‘ skills highlighted above all rely on the ability of the adviser to communicate. During the current pandemic and beyond, the need for both the human and practical capabilities to work together even more closely has come into sharp focus.

The best communicators have always used a variety of techniques to achieve their goals

They understand the subtlety of body language, when to speak and when to listen, how to use a variety of mediums for messaging, the power of storytelling etc. But how can they do this now that Covid-19 has removed closeness of human contact that helps to build trust and curtailed the power of the 1-2-1 conversation?

I believe that the answer is in more communication, not less

Digital communications can be quickly leveraged to make this a success. So, whilst the current crisis is having a corrosive impact, eroding the confidence and belief of even the most robust people, digital channels can enable advisers to reach out and communicate with multiple clients simultaneously;

  • By creating a single article or commentary and distributing it with a simple personalised email an adviser can create a sense of support for all their clients on a very regular basis. The subject can be directly linked to financial performance or simply a viewpoint on the impact of social and Governmental changes. The real importance lies in the regularity of the communication
  • The proliferation of video conferencing tools and their widespread adoption for family interactions has provided a simple but much needed and effective platform for communication.
  • Whilst Twitter can be divisive for some issues, regular tweets linking to interesting commentary or guidance (or even a humorous post) can help keep the dialogue open and warm with customers and extend reach to potential new customers.
  • Facebook can offer a more conversational style of engagement that can in certain circumstances work hugely effectively in ensuring financial advice is not regarded as boring or a trivial – but an important consideration worthy of discussion and planning.
  • Your website can become an interesting and dynamic repository of all of the above content, increasing its role as an important information asset, making it a destination for existing clients and a valuable source of information for potential new clients.
  • Virtual interactions provide a natural and helpful platform for introducing clients to a range of your services and products that in face to face interactions can appear clumsy.

Taken together, these provide a wonderful opportunity for advisers to build and maintain rapport with clients and – most importantly – with potential clients

A financial advisory business that is seen and known to be actively engaging and supporting clients will inevitably look attractive to those seeking guidance and re-assurance in troubled times. A single supportive article or post can have a ripple effect far beyond its original purpose.

I started this article talking about what industry leaders believe makes a good adviser and it is clear the fundamentals of advice provision have not changed since I entered the industry many years ago.

However, the mechanisms and channels certainly have. The good adviser has always reflected the practical and human characteristics I highlighted earlier – but must now be resourceful in adopting virtual communications to help and support his clients and prospects.

One word of caution

Making effective use of digital channels is not for the unskilled. My advice is to get advice – as blundering into digital communications can have detrimental impacts. Understanding the simple rules and protocols of channels will ensure maximum efficiency from your efforts.

Paul Martin is a consultant at Threekey, a Digital Marketing agency with specialist knowledge of supporting regulated businesses. If you would like to know more please contact him at paul.martin@threekey.co.uk or on 07734308429