In Focus: Vulnerability  

How the pandemic has shaped advisers' soft skills

  • To understand why soft skills may be needed now more than ever.
  • To ascertain what skills are important in an adviser/client relationship.
  • To be able to build on and develop soft skills.

This is also the view of Lora Benson, head of media for the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, who says: "Over time, across industries, soft skills may have been overlooked, possibly because it was difficult to pinpoint what they actually were, and because these were difficult to measure.

"Another key issue is that the term “soft skills” gives the impression that this set of skills is less important than technical skills, when in fact they are of equal importance."

For the CISI, there is a case to be made for the reformation of this term, to be replaced with a descriptor that better explains the skills included.

Benson adds: "For example, we partnered with The Diversity Project to deliver an education project with schools, part of which incorporates learning about these “soft” skills, but a decision has been made for the purposes of the interaction with students to term these skills “fusion skills”, which is an interesting term to consider.

"This term is used to describe the need for skills sets to be combined together, in this case, the fusion of communication skills, thinking skills, organisation skills and creative skills.

"Honing these skills enables individuals, especially those starting out in their careers, to compete in the job market and be more effective in their job role."

So - fusion skills, soft skills, creative skills - however these are described, the fact is, they are still important, and perhaps more so now.

"Having the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others during this very difficult time of Covid-19 will be the differentiator for both client relationships and staff management", Benson explains.

Barrow agrees the phrase sometimes cannot convey the importance of such skills: "Using the terminology ‘soft skills’ can sometimes imply they are the light and fluffy side of the job, when really, they’re essential for meaningful conversations and good outcomes."

Innate or learned?

Soft skills are not something that you are just born with, or not. They can be learned. 

The CISI believes a good starting point is to define what basic soft skills are. Examples include:

  • Body language
  • Building relationships
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Navigating office politics
  • Networking
  • Presenting
  • Running meetings.

Barrow adds: "Being able to see the world as their client sees it" is an important way of demonstrating not just that the adviser knows what the client is going through, but that they can understand and relate to it.

Therefore developing these skills is vital to engage and retain clients. Richards says: "Soft skills development is a key area of focus to support the professional development of both new and experienced members to improve the delivery of their technical knowledge.