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What advisers are saying: Keep learning to stay one step ahead

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You aren’t just what you know. It’s also how you apply that knowledge. Then of course there’s the small matter of creating (and evolving) the right business model from which that knowledge can be successfully pointed at and consistently delivered to your market.

So there is a whole bunch of things which contributes to the success of an advice business but knowing stuff remains critical.

Which is why it is surprising to hear quite such a laissez faire approach to more nuanced solutions. The premise of a) not recommending that which you do not understand and b) refraining from selling that which your client does not quite understand are perfectly acceptable in the very short term. A stop-gap if you like.

Both, though, should represent significant warning/opportunity flags to advisers. It seems the most appropriate solutions to conundrums a) and b) (respectively and respectfully) are a to learn and to learn to communicate better.

Avoiding either, or both, might save some time. It will certainly make for an easier life (again in the short term). It may even be quite possible to justify from a regulatory perspective. But it cannot and will not lead to better advice or better business.

A really quick illustration: say an adviser was to arrange some life cover for a director who ran his own company for the benefit of his family.

Do it one way and it’s a great value policy in trust for his family with premiums paid out of after tax income. Do it another way and there would still be great value cover for the family but it would be delivered through a relevant life policy so that the premiums would be paid by the company and would be tax deductible and not assessable on the director. Better outcome. Better business.

But, borrowing a quote from Abigail Adams wife of the second US president: “Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardour and diligence.” This is both the good part and the bad part. Bad, in that it can be a bit of a pain; good in that it can be a bit of a pain – which probably means much of your competition will not bother.

Learning is at the heart of a company’s ability to adapt and improve in a rapidly changing environment. Learning better than your competitors and applying that knowledge throughout your businesses faster, wider and deeper than they do will give you significant sustainable advantage.

It wil not cost much (financially). But it is not easy.

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan phil@soherestheplan.co.uk

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