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Kim North

During my working life, I have been many things – company representative, financial services marketing account handler, technical and compliance consultant and founder of an IFA firm. During this period of over 20 years, I have been lucky to have benefited from many types of training from excellent interactive sessions to those where you wonder why you were there.

As a new adviser with access to a limited product range, I needed to be taught the basic “close that sale” techniques and watch the laughably tearful “widow&#39s story” (probably on Betamax format in those days). Then as now, sales were the core raison d&#39tre of the provider company, so all training was focused on increasing sales.

Do not underestimate the importance of listening – two ears, one mouth, keeping things simple – and making it easy for your client to give you business and make further referrals. The core of any successful business is based on these tenets. These fundamentals also form the core of all client meetings, as does the need to provide real added value to clients in a professional manner. The addition of

a basic understanding of psychology, the understanding that people buy financial products through fear or greed, plus an in-depth technical knowledge twinned with the familiarity of rigorous procedures and CRM of the nature clients want, make up the next tier of learning required.

Do not underestimate the quality of the in-house trainers within provider companies. I am particularly indebted to Scottish Equitable for an intensive day session where the starting point was what was I was already capable of. Watching yourself in action is

no greater prompt to try to improve.

Any training and competence requirements are easily met if your own advisory techniques are perfected and you follow auditable processes as second nature. Many clients wonder why, on training and competence inspection visits, a “stranger” would be sitting in their meeting with me and only after explaining their role

and bringing the “silent stranger” into the meeting

would the client be at ease.

T&C is there for the protection of the client so should be respected. Many advisers from outside industries can cram to get through the FPC then face clients. But the width of knowledge required from estate planing to pension transfers is vast. Identified areas of specialism are becoming more common in order to meet the width of technical and applied knowledge required.

More complex client needs may have the attention of two or even three advisers and this is a good thing. Lawyers will happily say if they deal with civil litigation or not so why do some advisers say they deal with protection, drawdown of pensions and mortgages.

The knowledge base is so diverse. This is one reason I believe that small firms of IFAs must form allegiances with other firms in order to provide the level of expertise needed as our industry needs to reinvent itself once more to meet the needs of consumers and regulators.

I am pleased that the levels of required competence are rising and, as already seen in the US, the industry is beginning to be seen as a respected profession and not just a sales job.

Recently, I was asked to try and place an extremely affable graduate into an IFA firm to enable him to be fast-tracked through the sign-off process.

He is already putting himself through the exam process and so is seeking a supportive environment where he can develop professional skills. I racked

my brains. Which advisory firm will pay graduates with

a few years semi-relevant work experience the salary

they could obtain from being, for example, a trainee

fund analyst?

Which financial services firms allow bright young things to try their wings if they work their socks off? None I could think of. Perhaps Money Marketing is a good place for those companies which do allow fast track to let the industry know.

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