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Five minutes with…Balance Wealth’s Rebecca Aldridge

Ahead of her appearance at Money Marketing’s flagship conference, Money Marketing Interactive this April, CISI award winner Rebecca Aldridge looks at making numbers more exciting and getting advisers and fund managers on the same page

What one word or phrase do you think sums up the state of the financial planning profession today?

Over-doing disclosure. Well-intentioned regulations are creating more and more information in an effort to make financial services clearer. In actual fact it is making it much more confusing. More information is making clients feel overwhelmed and nervous. It’s not the content (they rarely read anything generic we give them, in my experience) it’s the quantity of it.

Register free now for the Money Marketing Interactive conferenceI don’t believe disclosure will fix the problem. Instead we need to fix the problems at source. If fund managers are charging too much, put a cap on their charges, for example. If unregulated firms are a problem, create a clear labelling system so consumers can see who is regulated and who isn’t.

What do we need to do to improve financial literacy in the UK?

Actually I think there’s another issue we need to address before we can even touch financial literacy, and that’s our relationship with numbers. All numbers. At some point when we are growing up for most people it becomes acceptable, or even encouraged, to say we are rubbish at maths, and people who are good at maths and manipulating numbers are ‘nerds’.

Now all those same people who said they were rubbish at maths are coming into our offices telling us they don’t understand their pensions and have never tried to. So we need to make numbers more interesting and engaging and basically change our culture before we can make people more prepared to engage with finances and their financial literacy.

Profile: Balance: Wealth goes under the spotlight

How can advisers best show their fees are worth it?

I don’t think advisers need to prove their fees are worth it. There are thousands of advisers to choose from. If a client isn’t happy with the fee for working with their adviser and wants to choose someone else based on price, they are free to do so. The cost of my time and advice is what I charge. Some people charge more, some less.

What should we be doing to get more new advisers into the profession?

I’d like to see more advisers coming into the profession and particularly to see a good balance between the genders. In order to make the profession more attractive I think there are a few steps we can take.

First, to make it clear that it’s not about selling or stock picking. Anyone I’ve ever met who wants to come into the advice profession has it confused with share dealing and thinks it’s about following the FTSE, which of course isn’t appealing to many people and isn’t accurate at all. In fact, the profession is 50 per cent about understanding people and 50 per cent about applying technical knowledge.

See the full lineup for Money Marketing Interactive 2019

Second, I’d make it easier to train and start working as an adviser. We all know that qualifications are one thing, and applying those qualifications to creating a financial plan is another. The ability to do that and be engaging with your client so they understand the financial plan is another things still. I think there is room for a financial planning degree that, within three years, could produce a Diploma qualified financial planner with the skills and knowledge actually needed to start advising.

Who wants to do a degree, then have to do five-plus years in an administrative position, moving to paraplanning and finally to advice? Bright people can learn this stuff, so let’s give them the opportunity.

What is the one key skill all aspiring advisers should learn?

That’s easy: listening. In order to advise, you must first understand and empathise. And to do that you need to listen. It sounds easy, but being a great listener is more than just keeping your mouth closed. It’s about gently encouraging, challenging, spotting reticence and reading between the lines.

If you could make a magic wand, what one thing would you change about how the advice profession operates in the UK?

There are so many things I would like to change, so I hope it’s not too much to ask of my magic wand to ask for just one, rather big thing: collaboration. I’d like to see a closeness and collaboration between advisers, investment fund providers, product providers, the regulator, the Ombudsman and the technology providers.

Working closely together would bring enormous innovation, efficiency, improve outcomes and engagement all around. I believe that could be possible with the right leadership.

Rebecca is speaking on a panel covering how to scale your advice firm at MMI London. Register for your free place here.

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