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CISI’s Culhane: Adviser soft skills will be in demand as tech advances

CISI’s Culhane: Adviser soft skills will be in demand as tech advances

The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment’s chief executive has said advisers will need to hone in on their soft skills as the increasing use of technology will see these skills become more in demand.

Speaking to FTAdviser, Simon Culhane, who recently announced he would be stepping down from the role, said the coronavirus brought about a huge technology change and was just “one simple little catalyst” to changing how individuals work.

He said: “We all got used to living and working differently, but tech was already changing the landscape. Before Covid, we were all talking about fintech and everything else tech, but actually tech has been around since the first ATM in 1976.

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“It's always been here, it's just becoming more and more important.”

As a result of the increased use of technology since Covid-19, Culhane explained that there will be a “great change” in the skills required for jobs, specifically for people in the financial sector, who are in administrative and routine jobs.

He argued the use of technology would impact people in the banking and finance world more than those in the financial planning and wealth world because people skills would still be very important.

“[However], the technology challenges are not to be underestimated,” he said. 

“The so-called softer skills, which in many respects are actually harder to do, are going to be much more in demand. How people keep themselves up to date with what's going on regulatory wise and investment wise, but also how they have their skills on the people side, is going to be really key to them.”

He said professional bodies, like CISI, are going to have to respond and do a lot more on the soft skills side because those are skills that are going to be in demand as the financial sector undergoes a structural change.

Difficult to test

Although professional bodies may attempt to implement some coaching around people skills, Culhane said it would be very difficult to test these soft skills.

“We can do lots of e-learning but it's very difficult and costly to actually invigilate or test some form of people skills - particularly as part of people and relationship skills is responding to and feeding off of information from others," he said.

“It's very difficult to find a consistent clean scenario where you've got the same responses that you can then measure objectively.”

He added: "I can remember being told this 30 years ago, people skills are really key and we're going to see a great change in finance and we did see a great change in finance."

“If you look at the number of jobs that have been removed out of what you might call administrative roles, they continue to reduce, but new jobs in different places and different things come in.”

When discussing how newly-qualified advisers may manage, he argued that a hybrid approach to clients will be the best way forward.