Despite the challenges it faces, advice remains as important as ever

Jill Hamilton, SimplyBiz Group

“I believe it is fair to say that advisers have, once again, risen to the challenge during difficult times and should be applauded for their commitment and determination to serve their clients.”

Having commenced my career in financial services in 2002, like most in the industry, I have seen many changes, including some highs and lows which challenged and changed working practices.

One of the first challenges in my career was the regulation of mortgages in October 2004, and then general insurance in January 2005. My role at the time was responsible for the applications to the regulator, and yes, these were all paper based and posted out!

Other challenges, to name but a few, include the transition from the FSA to the FCA, the introduction of the Retail Distribution Review, the Financial Advice Market Review, MiFID II, the requirements of GDPR and, most recently, SM&CR. There have been numerous hurdles for the adviser population to overcome, whilst continuing to provide a quality ongoing service to the demanding, and changing, needs of the consumer.

Technology has thankfully improved immeasurably over the years, offering supportive tools and processes to firms, leading to improved efficiencies throughout the industry. Over time, technology has been embraced by both product providers (who remembers paper-based agency applications?!) and advisers, which has ultimately improved efficiencies in time management, increased levels of professionalism in processes and outputs and, where used effectively, has improved the end result for the consumer.

Let’s cast our minds back a few years to face-to-face meetings with clients and what this experience may have looked like; paper fact finds, often many pages long, paper Attitude to Risk questionnaires, with cumbersome questions, paper review packs/illustrations from providers and so on.

But what does today’s advisory process look like? Appointments via Zoom or Skype, online fact finds, online review packs, illustrations and valuations, online tools to support the provision of quality advice e.g. online risk profilers, cash modelling tools, improved research and due diligence tools, website marketing, etc.

However, advisers, firms and providers are now facing what is turning out to be perhaps the biggest challenge for decades; Covid-19. No one could envisage this extraordinary and terrible situation in which we find ourselves. As we experience markets in turmoil and a deepening recession, no one can predict what the next few weeks, months or even years will look like, but we still have to provide a robust and professional service to the consumer in these, even more, demanding times.

Advisers are rising to the challenge as they embrace the new and improving technology and systems available to support them in their quest of satisfying consumer demands and needs. Even individuals who would not have previously described themselves as ‘IT proficient’ are now utilising all means at their disposal to provide an ongoing quality and valued service to the clients.

Many advisers are now recognising how valuable improved technology is to the running of their business and are seeking even more ways to further improve their business.

I believe it is fair to say that advisers have, once again, risen to the challenge during difficult times and should be applauded for their commitment and determination to serve their clients. This is yet another example of how important our industry is, in providing support and quality advice to the needs and wellbeing of consumers.

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