Technical specialist Fiona Tait will be taking on defined benefit transfers at MMI London, Money Marketing’s flagship conference. But before she does, she gives us an insight into what she would do with a magic wand for the market and getting joined up thinking with the regulators.
What is the most encouraging advice market trend you are seeing at the moment?
Initiatives such as Al Rush’s Chive and Darren Cooke’ petition against cold-calling show that there are some members of the profession who genuinely have consumer interest at heart and are prepared to put themselves out there when they need to. If they can do it, and attract the support that they did, then others can too.
What one word or phrase do you think sums up the state of the financial planning profession today?
What are the keys to winning over more consumers to start seeking advice?
We need to make ourselves easier to find for a start. One of the issues mentioned in Caroline Rookes’ British Steel Pension review was that scheme members had no idea where to start looking for advice, and that neither the FCA or unbiased websites were helpful enough.
Secondly, we need to keep it personal. Studies show that while people distrust financial advisers in general they do tend to trust their own adviser when they have one, so we need to build on this, each and every adviser doing what they can in their own sphere of influence. There are also independent industry role models, such as Michelle Cracknell of The Pensions Advisory Service, who should be given the airtime to help people understand what is available to them across the arena of guidance and advice.
What key reforms would help get people saving more?
The most obvious reform, and the one with the greatest overall potential to make a change, is an extension of automatic enrolment which would be more inclusive of the self-employed and those with multiple jobs, as well as a gradual increase to the minimum contribution levels.
The former is certainly not easy to achieve but I can’t believe it’s beyond the wit of the collective minds we have in the industry, if only we could all pull together with the government, regulators and consumer groups (as automatic enrolment did in the first place). Increasing minimum contribution rates would not be challenging to put into practice but it may be politically difficult without cross-party support.
What do we need to do to improve financial literacy in the UK?
Start early! I believe basic financial concepts should be taught in high schools. It is currently possible (in Scotland) to obtain qualifications in practical subjects such as business management, however it is a subject choice and not part of the core curriculum, which could mean it still tends to attract pupils who are not suited to the more “traditional” subjects.
How can advisers best show their fees are worth it?
The best way to demonstrate value is over time. As the relationship develops clients begin to see progress towards their goals and appreciate the service they are getting. For new clients, reviews or referrals are ideal to help clients understand what they will (and will not) get from your service. Fees should also be clearly linked to the services delivered, based on what the client will see and what it takes to deliver it. The end product of advice should be a plan not a product.
How important do you think coaching and life planning are to a modern advice business?
I think it is essential that advisers are able to relate to the motivations and methods that drive their clients, and this should certainly be aimed at supporting key life events or goals. However, while some individuals prefer to consider the wider aspect of life planning, a large number of clients, particularly those of a specialist business like ours, are more comfortable if the planning and coaching is limited to their finances.
What do you think marks out a truly innovative planning practice today?
A firm that keeps looking for new solutions, whether these meet the financial needs of their clients or in the running of their business. This does not necessarily mean using the latest gadgetry, although technology developments are a key part of a modern business, but more the ability to recognise when existing processes are no longer delivering the results that they used to and a willingness to change them. Anything from changing the people who answer the phones to implementing a new CMS would count.
What should we be doing to get more new advisers into the profession?
We need to recognise that there are many routes to becoming an adviser and many valuable roles to play within the advice process. Advisers are not the pinnacle of this process but one route which skilled individuals could take based on their experience to date. A well-qualified apprentice and a long-serving administrator bring different things to the table but could equally develop into very good advisers if we are able to offer the correct support and development. Unfortunately, it is often easier for adviser firms, particularly the smaller ones, to recruit existing advisers rather than developing existing staff.
What is the one key skill all aspiring advisers should learn?
If you could make a magic wand, what one thing would you change about how the advice profession operates in the UK?
More joined up thinking between advisers and all the people who regulate and oversee our services.
Why do you think it is important to attend Money Marketing Interactive?
Financial services has and continues to be subject to continual changes in legislation, regulation and practice. Anyone looking to maintain a professional standing must therefore ensure that they keep up to date at all times. Money Marketing’s focus on the advice sector and all that effects puts it in an ideal position to pull together the knowledge and experience of practitioners which advisers will find relevant and useful.