No therapist worth their salt could ever expect to be very successful without mastering the so-called ‘soft skills’.
Indeed, it is difficult to think of any profession where a person can really achieve success without being effective at communication, and having the ability to develop empathy with their patients, students or clients.
In recent years, as far as financial advice is concerned, so much emphasis has been placed on getting the right qualifications that the vital importance of soft skills has been neglected.
We all know individuals who are qualified up to their ears, but could no more advise a client than fly to the moon. Equally, there are those who may only have achieved a minimum level of qualification but are nonetheless outstandingly successful advisers who are appreciated, and valued, by their clients. Invariably, this is because of their ability to empathise with their clients while communicating often complex ideas in a straightforward way.
As a profession, we are faced with a dilemma. It is essential that we do not attempt to turn the clock back to pre-RDR days. The higher standards and enhanced qualifications brought about by the RDR are part of the professionalism that is now so successfully permeating our sector.
The dilemma is how we redress the balance between the soft skills essential for advisers to be able to properly and effectively serve their clients, without weakening our high standards of technical knowledge and professionalism.
I believe we need to look at how other professions have embraced the importance of soft skills. The fact is that their training invariably incorporates key sessions on communication and the importance of putting clients or patients at ease.
Therefore I believe it is high time we woke up to the importance of soft skills, as our ability to successfully deliver advice to clients is ultimately more dependent on our soft skills than our technical knowledge.
Rather than disparaging soft skills, we need to recognise the important role they play in building lasting relationships with clients. Soft skills are not sales patter or tricks, as you cannot build trust with tricks. Rather, it is developing a genuine interest in your clients on your journey to becoming their financial therapist.
Ken Davy is chairman of SimplyBiz