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Phil Wickenden: Providers need to better understand advice firms


York Railway Museum does not understand. Neither do many providers – but more on them in a moment. 

While the dotting of Thomas the Tank Engine simulators amid the Pullmans and Bogie Bolsters may seem a fun attraction for all the family, the opposite is true. 

The problem is, Thomas the Tank Engine triggers a deep yearning in one-year-olds that no amount of pound coins punched into Thomas’s greedy little slot can satisfy. 

So thanks, Metropolis Entertainment, for scattering those little blue kiddie crack machines all over the place at the museum and marring an otherwise delightful day.

In conversations with advisers about their business and technical support needs, a pretty compelling 69 per cent said (without prompting) that providers need to spend more time understanding the fundamentals of adviser businesses before foisting solutions on them. 

Advisers appreciate in this new world that greater time must be invested in learning about the foibles of each firm and the quirks that make each one unique before promoting products and services. This message should speak volumes –  but one cannot listen and talk at the same time.

In trying to get their point across (increasingly noisily and obtrusively, in some instances), the true needs of advisers can be ignored by providers – or at best paid lip service.  

Most listening, in truth, is far from it because we tend to listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. 

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, differentiates five types of listening (or pretending to listen):

1. Ignoring: not really listening at all

2. Pretending: humming along while not really following

3. Selective listening: hearing what you want to hear

4. Attentive listening: paying attention to the words

5. Empathic listening: intending to understand what the other is trying to communicate

Empathic listening is not about agreeing with the speaker nor building faux rapport through clever – that is, stupid – techniques. It is about truly committing to understand someone else’s world –  what message they may be trying to convey and why, irrespective of (and totally detached from) the solutions you may have. It is the only form of true listening. 

Once the speaker feels you are really listening, they will ask for your opinion. Then, and only then, will it be your turn to talk.

Phil Wickenden is founder of So Here’s the Plan 



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