Bringing the 'whole self'
Knowles thrives on bringing her ’whole self’- which includes the rich resource of her lived experience - to her work. She combines an “understanding of how businesses work”, gained through a PhD in business, with direct experience of being an adviser.
She also brings her own knowledge as a client who was “previously declined for life insurance and would still be declined for income protection due to my health conditions”.
In the same way as she integrates these varying perspectives into her work, giving her an advanced insight into the needs of different groups, she also believes in a whole industry approach, integrating different parts of the sector to share diverse experiences.
“You cannot just have actuaries talking together, or underwriters talking to themselves, or advisers, or reinsurers, or insurers, or trade bodies", Knowles explains. "We are all so specialised and it is essential that we have representation from each area, to sit and speak openly to make true meaningful change."
This diversity of perspectives is where lived experience fits in – enhancing diversity of thinking, proven so valuable to business success.
And many advisers, planners, consultants and others may have witnessed an area of vulnerability in their backgrounds. Henry Tapper, former IFA and chief executive of AgeWage UK, is one such person.
Tapper’s father was a doctor specialising in geriatric care. He set up two care homes as a charity that took in people who could not afford private fees.
Tapper says: “I got to spend time with older people, many of whom were declining mentally. It made me aware that growing old is scary – and that later life finances can be precarious.”
This background gave him an understanding of the challenges, including financial ones, that older people face. “I saw how difficult it became for people towards the end of their lives, to manage their finances and how important the help of pensions, of family and of professionals was.”
This understanding has led Tapper’s journey towards being an industry leader who builds awareness of later life needs and vulnerabilities through his work. His experience of witnessing that vulnerability has proved to be a resource that has shaped his own career.
Empathy and the client
Being empathetic and / or being able to relate personally to a client’s situation of vulnerability is good from an individual’s business point of view, and at industry level.