Amid calls for education for consumers in personal finance, can we consider the more obvious questio...
Amid calls for education for consumers in personal finance, can we consider the more obvious question of education for industry practitioners? To reach out to consumers more effectively, build propositions communicated compellingly and rebuild or build that elusive confidence, we need to look at the skills and attitudes of those within the industry. To suggest that consumers should move to us and that poor comprehension is the issue is to risk accusations of arrogance.
Companies are correctly focusing on the quality of their people, but few are connecting the thought with the deed. Investment in development of people capability is for most businesses extremely low. There is clearly a mismatch here: if people are the best source of differentiation then should not they warrant a life long development plan, a commitment to training, coaching or mentoring? But education is a two-way street and this sort of development only works if both parties are willing participants. There are still some companies that take the view that if you train your people too much they become valuable and then leave, to which the riposte might be, what if you don't and they stay?
And there are some individuals who respond to the word 'training' by thinking of new entrants or those well to the bottom of the status chain, unless continuous professional development (CPD) points are at stake, in which case they will attend but only in box-ticking mode. Development commitments tend to be patchy or tactical - that is, they focus on correcting faults or a weakness. So the public speaking course is prescribed to the new presenter, even if the communication failings of the CEO are more mission critical.
Take the financial planning (FP) examinations. Do they help advisers to be IFAs? Clearly, they focus only on the technical aspects of the job. They do not teach business skills, management strategy or marketing.
They are silent on the question of customer relationship management (CRM), on supply chain management and process engineering. And if you join the sector aspiring to management on the company side then what should you do to prepare yourself? In times past, the answer was to become an actuary, but for most people that is unnecessarily difficult and precludes all but the most numerate. It is also largely irrelevant and again is poor preparation for management in the round. Even MBAs are still too generalist and everyone struggles with connecting learning from consumer goods and retail with the world of finance.
A good starting point would be for all IFAs to assess where they could benefit from an injection of capability development and to call for FP electives in business management. Perhaps if the providers pay as much attention now to developing communication and marketing skills as they have in the past to technical proficiency in other areas, the industry will be better positioned to meet customer needs successfully.
Brendan Llewellyn, director, C4B