What makes a good adviser? It is quite a hard question to answer because it is not a tangible and uniform attribute. What makes an adviser successful with a particular client group may not translate to success in another.
Turning back the clock and recalling how it was in early days when you have been in the industry as long as I have is both a trip down memory lane and a good reminder of how hard things can be when you first set out.
When I started over a quarter of a century ago, training was woefully non-existent and you had to pick up what you could from more experienced people. I asked a lot of questions. I needed to.
Today's young advisers would be horrified that they were expected to advise clients with the minimal training that we had. Fortunately, the level of work at that stage was not over-complex, which, given the level of training, is probably just as well.
I set to thinking about how I learned and whether the methods that I learnt then apply as much to my work now. It is a very different world but the early lessons can have validity and apply even in today's very different cultural climate.
I do recall that I was not very successful at the start. Not many people that I saw in the very early days became clients. I do, however, recall that after each unsuccessful meeting, I would analyse and analyse and analyse again why I had failed to secure the client and I would not stop the analysis until I was confident that I had found the answer. I learnt not to make the same mistakes again and gradually my success rate improved.
Learning is ongoing and never ceases. Even seasoned advisers can learn from the youngest colleagues. They often have a fresh approach to matters and skills of their own that simply need to be developed.
This self-analysis remained with me. In my early days of publicity, I used to do exactly the same thing. I would watch how things came across on TV, for instance. Was the message one that I wanted to convey? Was it conveyed in the right manner? Could I have done it better?
It was this last question that always drove me. Could I improve on what I had done?
There is great virtue in analysing why clients buy from you as an adviser. I think with every adviser there will be a different answer.
I believe my strong points are my ability to listen, my ability to ask the right questions to illicit the information that I need and explaining complex products in simple terms.
Mostly and overriding all this, I do strive to engage my clients in the whole process. I want them also to have fun. This “f” word seems to be much missing from today's vocabulary. Regulation and compliance do not seem to be easy companions with the pure joy of the job but I think that having fun despite all is important. It is easier to engage clients if they are enjoying the process and, let's face it, to most people, financial matters are not the most interesting of topics. Some enthusiasm and passion for the job goes a long way to alleviate the boredom that can so bog down the whole process.
Every adviser has unique abilities. If you are not sure what yours are, then ask your clients what they like about the service that you give them or ask your colleagues. They may know you better than you think and can often point put the particular skills that you have. Once you are aware of these, it is easier to build on them and, by building on them, ensure that they remain in trim and well honed.
So, although the environment in which I grew up in this industry is very different from the environment that is in operation today, the lessons that I learnt then can be app-lied, albeit in a more sophisticated way. It just goes to show that remembering the basics and applying them is never a waste of time.
Amanda Davidson is a partner at Charcol Holden Meehan