Tom Hegarty: How to be a general practitioner adviser

Hegarty, Tom_700x450

When I joined the New Model Business Academy in January, one of the first things I did was ask all members to complete our training needs analysis survey so I could ascertain what the most important areas of focus were for them. Gaining a better understanding of the priorities of more than 16,000 financial services professionals meant I would then be able to take an informed view on where our focus should lie.

It has long been my belief advisers boast a wider skill set than virtually any other profession. They need to adhere to a complex and ever-changing regulatory regime while maintaining a strong ethical conduct and keeping up to date with technical and product information. They also need good communication and interpersonal skills in order to build client relationships and be able to explain how much their services cost and exactly what the customer will get for their money.

For business owners, further challenges come from trying to manage the firm profitably and efficiently, with all the HR, salary and administrative requirements involved.

With this in mind, I was not surprised to see the results of the training needs analysis demonstrate financial services professionals have a wide range of interest across five key categories: technical knowledge, conduct and ethics, business development, practice management and personal development. The top five areas of interest in each of these sections were as follows:

Technical knowledge                                                      

  • Retirement planning
  • Taxation
  • Savings and investments
  • Estate planning
  • Trusts

Conduct and ethics

  • Suitability
  • Professional conduct
  • Treating customers fairly
  • Regulation
  • Professional practice

Business development

  • Marketing your business
  • Referrals
  • Developing professional connections
  • Developing corporate clients
  • Using social media

Practice management

  • Defining your proposition
  • Business strategy
  • Report writing
  • Financial planning and tool and software
  • Cashflow modelling

Personal development

  • Communication skills
  • Questioning techniques
  • Presentation skills
  • Influencing skills
  • Negotiating skills

As with every walk of life, all advisers will hold skill sets that are naturally stronger in some areas than others. Some are attracted to and excel in the human interaction elements of the advice process, while others lean automatically towards technical, research and product details. Truly successful advisers recognise they need to have skills in place across the spectrum and the training needs analysis results show they are willing to work on finessing or refreshing what may not come naturally to them.

In order to be a “general practitioner” adviser, it is necessary to keep your knowledge up to date in everything from soft skills and sales techniques to very technical and product centric information. Fortunately, the market has evolved to recognise the breadth of these needs and, in the vast majority of areas, training and support is fairly widely available.

Tom Hegarty is managing director of the New Model Business Academy