Who advises the advisers? Why a new cost of living crisis means we need to support our sector more than ever before

by | Jul 8, 2022

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Written by Stuart Wilson, CEO of AIR

When talking to an adviser about the issues facing the UK IFA industry, sooner rather than later vulnerability is bound to be discussed. Client vulnerability has been a growing topic in recent years – and for good reason.

Even discounting the financial pressures of the pandemic and the stress of shielding for months, older consumers faced a higher risk of isolation, health issues or deteriorating mental health. All of which contribute to vulnerability.

Given the clear guidance from the regulator and the desire to support customers, advisers, lenders and service providers in our industry have gone to significant lengths to ensure that vulnerability is factored into every stage of the process. However, there is still more that can be done, particularly with the rising cost of living hitting those on fixed incomes particularly hard.

Indeed, the recent Financial Services Consumer Panel report on vulnerability amongst older homeowners begins with the line ‘At a time when the costs of living are increasing at eye-watering rates…’. It’s a telling choice. As these external factors start to increase vulnerability amongst clients, advisers are undoubtedly best placed to support them but who is supporting advisers in undertaking this crucial role?

It’s essential that for advisers to continue doing the good work they do, they have access to a support network of their own. What this looks like is likely to vary from adviser to adviser but can range from educational materials to referral networks to sourcing tools and even simply advice from other advisers. The foundation of a good adviser giving great advice often goes completely unseen by the client.

However, every day is a school day so with vulnerability likely to stay at the top of the agenda, what support options should adviser ensure they are considering as a matter of course?

First and foremost, adviser networks and clubs provide a valuable platform to air issues and concerns, and a peer group to provide advice and support. Yes, Mortgage

Clubs act as aggregators to help advisers find their client the best products, but they also function as sources of training and advice for advisers.

Specialised clubs – like our Air Club – focus on more specific areas of the market, such as the later life sector. Older clients are typically more likely to be vulnerable and offer unique challenges for advisers, so this must be reflected in more specialist resources for the advisers to best support these clients.

Clubs help advisers to understand best practice but also provide the opportunity to network and build contacts who you can look to for front-line advice. Being able to speak to a peer to understand if they have experienced a similar situation is often a source of huge reassurance as well as insight.

Educational resources are often part of the package and at Air Club, we encourage advisers to make use of the recently refreshed Air Academy which provides interactive intuitive training on topics including vulnerability and soft skills. Those advisers who complete the entire set of modules receive an ‘Accredited Later Life Lending Professional’ digital badge which also serves to reassure customers.

Industry events and conferences are also essential to provide advisers with the tools they need to get the job done well. Such events raise awareness of key concerns, run panels on best practices and create a community to bolster advisers personally, as well as professionally.

While service providers, trade bodies and platforms have been on the front foot in providing these resources to support advisers in dealing with vulnerability, lenders too have had their role to play.

Educational materials are available online and freely accessible, whether helping advisers in referring to a specialist or seeking to qualify themselves to offer late life products. Most lenders also circulate fact sheets and thoughts on best practice through newsletters and maintain a presence at industry roundtables or speak at club networking events to ensure that the sector can collaborate to manage vulnerability better. Some also host webinars and speaking to the Air Ambassadors, they welcome questions and requests from advisers.

The wealth of support out there for advisers is encouraging, but we would always urge lenders, clubs and independent companies in our industry to consider what more they can do to develop the tools and networks that are so essential to maintaining and continuing our progress.

As the cost of living continues to increase, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels

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