Compliance obligations affecting communication skills

A growing focus on technical education is resulting in advisers spending less time on developing their communication skills, argues one communications consultant.

Risk Insurance Communication Skills principal Russell Collins said it is “ironic” that in an effort to meet compliance obligations, advisers are placing greater emphasis on product knowledge at the “expense” of developing their communications skills.

“This approach appears to stem from an unnatural fear that communication skills are about selling and that selling is not professional,” Mr Collins said.

“I do not believe that selling and professionalism are mutually exclusive and unless advisers improve their communication, relationship-building and selling skills, our underinsurance problem will only worsen.”

Mr Collins pointed out that while industry reform is “sorely needed”, it has not been effective in ensuring advisers can maintain a balance in developing their range of skills.

“It hasn’t been as successful as it could have been because in order to meet compliance obligations, many licensees have ignored the need for advisers to develop communication and relationship-building skills,” he said.

Mr Collins added that advisers who do not have great communication skills will struggle to meet their best interest duty obligations.

“The questions clients want answered when meeting with an adviser for the first time are: Do I like you? Do I trust you? Are you competent? Are you the sort of person who will put my best interests before your own? And it's this last question where our industry falls down and that’s where advisers can be on the front foot,” Mr Collins said.

“Knowing and understanding clients means advisers will be better placed to discover what clients really need in terms of life insurance and what they can afford.”

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