New research has proved what many advisers have always known – that the possession of soft skills such as communications and empathy can be just as important as possession of a degree qualification when it comes to working in the financial advice space.
That research has been undertaken for major insurer MetLife Australia and has resulted in the MetLife Adviser-Client Relationship Report 2018 and found that the top three attributes of an adviser for both consumers and small to medium-sized enterprises are maintenance of an ongoing relationship, communicating in an understandable way and being and honest and trustworthy.
The research examined attitudes to purchasing life insurance through a financial adviser, surveying consumers and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) with up to 20 employees.
The research also showed that around 60 per cent of all respondents rated their adviser’s overall performance as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.
The research analysis said this was driven by their adviser rating very highly on soft skills such as speaking in easy to understand language (65 per cent), being honest and trustworthy (65 per cent), genuinely caring (55 per cent) and providing regular communications (50 per cent).
Commenting on the research, MetLife Australia head of retail sales, Matt Lippiatt said that at a time when trust in institutions generally was pretty low, the research showed that people still had deep trust in their adviser to care for them.
“The introduction of the FASEA standards will raise the level of formal education across the industry but we mustn’t lose sight of just how much consumers and SMEs value advisers’ interpersonal skills – listening, being sensitive to a clients’ individual situation and communicating regularly and clearly,” he said.
“It’s these soft skills that empower advisers to offer their clients a personalised service, that has real value to them. Consumer expectations are increasing rapidly across most service sectors and it is no longer enough to just be technically competent. People want to have a true relationship with their adviser and it takes a certain set of skills to be able to foster and grow that partnership over time, and engender trust.”
MetLife said another key finding of the report was that ongoing communication preferences differed widely by age and client type and that, overall, consumers in the 18-39 age group were more likely than other groups to prefer email (84 per cent) or message/text (18 per cent), while those aged 60+ were more likely to prefer face-to-face (52 per cent) or phone call (47 per cent) than other groups.