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.
CPD
Approx.30min

"There is little substitute for experience in aiding professional development and enhancing better outcomes."

Thankfully, there are many ways to boost professional development when it comes to these skills.

Lira comments: "Once you identify what soft skills are important to learn and where the gaps are, then you can focus on practising them. To identify potential areas, it's useful to observe yourself.

"And because we often miss the obvious ourselves, it helps to ask people in our lives for feedback; the ones you can really trust like old friends, including clients."

She feels the three most important tools in the soft skills kit are being empathic, listening well, and speaking concisely - all of which can be learned and developed.

The CISI's Benson also cites listening: "Listening – this is so very integral to the financial planner’s soft skill set. It’s long been said that there is a difference between “listening” and “hearing”, with the act of real listening allowing for the pick up of clues, nuance and a more deeper understanding of the client’s needs."

Lira adds: "Asking for feedback is itself an important soft skill which can help identify potential areas that one may wish to work on. There are an abundance of resources to learn from – books and podcasts, for example - and one can always ask for recommendations via LinkedIn or Twitter, and so on."

Benson also advocates reading articles and books - and of course, doing CPD - but also flags microsites and sections dedicated to members which have webinars and podcasts on topics like these.

Then there is simply learning through using - whether with a client or through mentoring. The CISI spokesperson says: "Some people may already possess many of these skills, having acquired them over time through work experience."

Professional coaching

Other ways of acquiring soft skills include sharing best practice and being mentored. The CISI set up its financial planning mentoring scheme in 2019 bringing together experts and young people to help improve their financial planning skills.

"Soft skills are critical in the overall holistic financial planning process, and experienced and dedicated certified financial planner professionals can give generous encouragement and lived experience in this area for mentees", Benson says.

The SimplyBiz Group is running a soft skills training programme throughout 2021, which includes workshops exploring financial planning, supervision, and identifying and supporting vulnerable clients, using a blend of learning techniques, including watching, listening, and doing.

Similarly, the PFS and Scottish Widows, among others, have created a range of material to support advisers looking to build on their soft skills – available from The Expert Series (scottishwidows.co.uk) – including vodcasts, guides and webinars.