While it was sufficient in the past to simply provide advice for a client in line with their financial goals, it is now more important than ever the client understands the finer details of the advice process.
There are many competent advisers in this country who not only enjoy what they do, but are also good at what they do. The changes being introduced within the industry, whether welcomed or not, will no doubt refine our profession, providing benefits to both adviser and client.
Whether you provide holistic financial advice or risk-only advice, the key to your success and longevity in the industry will be closely linked to your relationship with your clients. There are many business owners who focus a little too much on new business, ignoring the retention of existing clients in the process. It is important to get the balance right, however irrespective. All clients need to be looked after in order for the business to grow.
As an adviser, your job is to provide appropriate advice and ensure you always do the best thing by your client. Every client is unique and different, including their financial literacy, so as advisers our approach needs to adapt to the level of the client.
In the past, it was sufficient to know that the advice given was beneficial for the client and in line with their financial goals. Now, I believe that we must not only provide appropriate advice but ensure that the client understands the hows and whys of the process. By doing this, the client is better engaged and therefore better educated about the process and strategy. They feel happier and more confident not only with the advice but also with the relationship with their adviser.
My own process has evolved over the years with my own clients. As a risk adviser, the same principles apply, with the focus predominantly on insurance and super. I too was placing emphasis on the right strategy or policy for the client without possibly covering the basics. As risk advisers, we constantly come across potential clients with existing cover in place, whether it is personally held or owned within their super fund.
My first question now is, ‘Do you know the type of cover that you currently own and how it works?’ I’m surprised by the number of people who don’t really know what they are covered for or the criteria for qualifying for benefits. It probably pays to not even ask the question and simply start explaining what they have and give examples of when benefits would be paid.
From my experiences, I find that there is much confusion with clients trying to understand the difference between trauma and TPD cover. Very few people also know both the type and level of cover held within their industry super funds, if they even know that they have cover at all. Before strategy, levels of cover, pricing or insurers are discussed, we must be confident that the client totally understands their cover options and how it works.
As risk advisers, we need to explain the criteria involved in clients’ cover options. Clarify that income protection and TPD are occupation based. Many people don’t understand that not only does an injury or illness need to occur, the insured needs to be unable to work as well.
Many super fund members expect to receive benefit payments in the event of cancer or heart disease. They figure that the incident is serious and they have some form of cover in their industry super, and a payment will be received. Once again, it is our job to educate about trauma and the superannuation rules. How else will clients know?
I try to avoid mentioning the product names themselves, i.e. trauma or income protection cover. Focus instead on the fact that you would like them to receive a lump sum payment on the occurrence of a serious illness to clear their mortgage or an ongoing monthly benefit to pay their bills if they were unable to work.
Once a client understands the difference in cover, they are more likely to go ahead with your recommendations. You can also educate your clients both pre- and post-appointment and continue educating them by regularly sending them relevant articles. I use my own insurance blogs to explain the basics to the consumer, better positioning them to make an informed decision.
Your clients are also more likely to discuss their insurance with others once they are educated, which can lead to referrals, which of course is the main objective of any advice business. By providing adequate advice and ensuring your clients are better educated and more involved with the process, I am confident that your business will continue to head in the right direction.
Tom George is a life insurance adviser for DMA Financial Strategists
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