Why you need more than exams to be a good adviser

Michelle Hoskin argues advisers should focus on quality of service over quantity of qualifications.

In a world where professional qualifications have become a global obsession, it is time to change our approach. Qualifications have, and will always have, their place. They are the foundation of financial professionals and paraplanners’ expertise.

But given the increase in demands from regulatory and professional bodies, and consumers, there needs to be a greater focus on quality over qualifications.

It is true that a lot of us could study, sit and pass many of the academic technical examinations available today. In fact, if we study hard enough, we may even pass with flying colours. But does this make us any good at our jobs?

Qualifications alone do not equip us with the skills and abilities to make us amazing at our jobs; there is so much more to it than that.

In a world where professional qualifications have become a global obsession, it is time to change our approach. Qualifications have, and will always have, their place. They are the foundation of financial professionals and paraplanners’ expertise.

But given the increase in demands from regulatory and professional bodies, and consumers, there needs to be a greater focus on quality over qualifications.

It is true that a lot of us could study, sit and pass many of the academic technical examinations available today. In fact, if we study hard enough, we may even pass with flying colours. But does this make us any good at our jobs?

Qualifications alone do not equip us with the skills and abilities to make us amazing at our jobs; there is so much more to it than that.

Piling on pressure

As a profession we are becoming more demanding when it comes to recruitment. This, combined with a cutthroat and highly competitive recruitment market, means firms are struggling to find great quality people who can actually do the job.

Added to that is the fact that people are struggling to find firms that are actually as good on the inside as they look on the outside.
Professional standards for best practice give an idea about what this quality should be.

Financial services has had its own international standard for more than 10 years, the BS ISO 22222:2005 Personal financial planning. These requirements for personal financial planners were designed by global sector experts and took more than seven years to create. Once it was launched, it opened up the floodgates for more professional standards.

Financial services has four of its own international, British and sector specific standards. These all set the benchmark for excellence in business and practice management, compliance, financial planning and paraplanning.

Design of any sector specific standard is always demand-led, driven by an industry’s marketplace. These standards were no different.

Actions speak louder

The current process of standards certification validates you can carry out what you say you do. A broad and deep review of ‘evidence’ is the only proof you and your business have met the highest possible standards in everything you do, all the time.

How can processes help your firm? The following are a few ideas.

1) Broaden your view of who the client is. You have both internal and external clients. It is inevitable that when you focus on serving only the needs of your external clients, you put unnecessary pressure on your internal clients: your team.

 

2) When designing anything new, be it a client mailer, a new role or a new process, consider a more rounded view. Prioritise what you are trying to achieve, to add value to the intended client.

3) Capture all feedback – good, bad, internal, external – and log it. As a profession we are still scared of feedback (one of the less positive outcomes of the Financial Conduct Authority’s ‘Treating Customers Fairly’ policy) because of its connection with complaints. It has to be relevant, timely and compliant, so vary the questions. This will enable you to get to the heart of what you are trying to find out.

4) Once you have your feedback, review it at team and leadership meetings. Make sure communication is fluid and consistent between key people, and always agree as a team what corrective actions are needed.

This ensures positive actions can be repeated, and anything that did not go so well can be adapted to avoid it happening again.

Michelle Hoskin is director at Standards International.

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