What is the skillset of a successful financial planner?

We recently partnered with Fidelity FundsNetwork on a series of reports to mark the 20th anniversary of the platform’s launch. The first of the series looks at how the skills required of financial planners has evolved and expanded and asks, how well aligned are the new and old skillsets, and what skills might financial planners seek to develop in the near future to keep pace with the changing nature of the job?

At the core, certain skills have always been vital to good financial planning and will continue to be: great interpersonal skills; relationship building; numeracy; a level of technical understanding and above all, the ability to translate the complex into something that clients can grasp and buy into.

One interviewee told us:

“Today compared to when I first came in, commission played a big role. It was more of a transactional sales role. Now it’s more planning stages. Why do you need a pension? Coupled with planning software, cash flow modelling. Every year when you meet with clients, it’s not just what are we topping up, but why?”

Looking at the ‘why’ and not just the ‘what’ highlights the need for the so-called ‘softer skills’: empathy; coaching skills, and emotional intelligence to discuss clients’ goals, fears and the outcomes of life-changing events. During the Covid crisis, we’re seeing evidence that clients are turning to their financial planners not just for reassurance on their investment strategies but also for a deeper conversation about their concerns for their families and businesses and the uncertainty of the future.

Recent events have accelerated change but a shift in working practices was already underway to reflect the changing demands of a modern client base and the business need for greater efficiency. We expect additional skills to grow in value for financial planners, including:

  1. Behavioural coaching
  2. Cyber security and data handling
  3. Strategic planning
  4. Soft skills to support clients in volatile markets
  5. Ability to adopt and use new tech to improve efficiency

The role of the financial planner has arguably never been more important than it is now. In a wider context, more responsibility is being put on the shoulders of individuals to fund their own pension. At the same time, technology advances will mean that the role of the financial planner will continue to evolve. And in the present climate, clients will rely heavily on the relationships they have built with their skilled and trusted planners.

“The best financial advisers aren’t the most technical. They don’t know the textbook inside out. They are able to sit down and have a basic conversation without overcomplicating issues. That can be somebody from any sales environment. In the UK, financial advisers try to distance themselves from being salespeople but we are. Its consultative though.”

The report is available for download now here.

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