The key to rapid ROI: SKILLS
Compliance & Sales & Marketing for Professional Services

The key to rapid ROI: SKILLS

September 11, 2013

by Tony Vidler

must-try-harderThe market regulator in Australia has just released a report making a series of recommendations for the improvement of professional financial advice, and it makes for interesting reading.

One particular recommendation though is, on the surface, a little contentious.  It is:

Licensees should ensure that even experienced advisers remain abreast of all regulatory and product changes, and continue to develop their skills.”

ASIC is spot on in my experience…there has been a serious underinvestment in skills development in this part of the world for a decade.  We are seeing a new generation of advisers trying to develop businesses with insufficient skills.  There has been a massive shift in training and professional development emphasis to technical training, and ensuring technical proficiency. To be fair, that was needed and it will continue to be a work in progress for some time to come.  One of the other core components of developing effective professional advisers has however been almost entirely ignored along the way.

There are three broad areas of continual development for a great professional adviser:

1.  Technical competency

2.  Ethical behavior & standards

3.  Delivery skills

The evolving profession of financial advice has focused largely on the first two, and rightly so.  These are the areas where professional standards can be raised relatively swiftly, and competence and confidence in the sector improved.

For advisers to be truly effective professionally however, they need a significant array of commercial and relationship management skills.  It is in this area that the greatest ROI can be found incidentally for the advice business.  Developing greater sales skills, founded upon ethical standards and technical competency, will be the swiftest way for advice businesses to grow and deliver greater value to clients.

It is pleasing to se a market regulator recognise the critical importance of skills, and to draw advisers attention to the need to continually work upon improving them.  Of course many experienced practitioners feel that they already have all the necessary skills….and perhaps they do.  Interestingly however, I have found while delivering a series of training programmes recently that are focussed almost entirely upon skills, that a very high proportion of experienced advisers have also languished in their professional skills development over the last decade.

Many advisers will grandly state “I have 20 years of experience and skills”…..yet when it comes to skills development this is not really an accurate self assessment of competency.  It would be more accurate to say they have 10 years of skills development, and then 10 years of technical development.  During the last decade consumers have become more sophisticated and are leading far more complicated lives, society has shifted and begun to re-shape itself, technical information is far more readily available for any consumer… the question must be asked of advisers:

Are the skills you learned 20 years ago still adequate in todays market?

Smart advice businesses will be turning the focus back onto improving delivery skills.   That’s where we must try harder, and that is where the best ROI lies in professional development.

The full ASIC report can be viewed here as a PDF.


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