Editorial: In the trenches

Attacks on planners from other sectors belie the good work being done on the client front
FROM THE advertising campaigns of the industry superannuation funds and their lobbyists in Canberra to the loss of consumer confidence engendered by the global financial crisis and subsequent re-regulation of the industry, life has been tough for advisers in recent years.

But while planners can – to a certain extent – expect frostiness from trade union-backed funds and government regulators sceptical of the private sector and small business, often the most damaging taunts can come from our friends.

That’s why when an association of tax accountants launches a nasty, menacing attack on another sector within financial services for what seems like the base motivation of profit and spruiking its own services, it resonates with readers.

Earlier this month, a lobby group with 8,500 members did just that – and sure enough, the reactions were not muted.

As ifa features editor Aleks Vickovich writes this month (page 14), the National Tax and Accountants’ Association (NTAA) put out a shocking warning to consumers, misleading them about the extent to which they can trust a financial planner they don’t already know.

Not surprisingly, ifa readers took to the comments section of the website to respond, retaliating with some strong criticism of their own. But among the 114 comments published so far, there were also a handful that expressed regret that ifa chose to “give oxygen” to the comments in the first place.

We value all feedback and engagement from readers on this platform, and we take both positive and negative feedback seriously. In the interests of transparency, we have also done our best to publish every comment critical of ifa and its coverage of this story.

While we appreciate that some believe we should have denied the group the attention it sought, thereby avoiding complicity in the attack, we believe – as a news service for financial advisers – that our readers had a right to know.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about reporting comments like those of the NTAA is that it can overshadow the incredible work being done – heads down, bums up – by advisers and their support staff. They are the ones who are helping clients reach their personal financial goals, day in day out.

Our cover feature this month (pp18-23) explores how some advisers are increasingly drawing on psychological principles and research to improve their client relationships and the advice process. Journalist Rachael Micallef spoke to a range of experts – both in financial services and psychology – and looked at some of the more progressive approaches being taken.

This article reminds us that, at its core, financial advice is a career that is about people – and that people skills such as empathy are just as important as investment and product knowledge or business acumen.

The feature also shows that there are opportunities for advisers seeking to enhance their client offering and evolve their service capabilities in line with the needs, nuances and quirks of their clients.I trust you will enjoy this issue of ifa; please contact me direct if you have any feedback. «

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