Refocusing: beyond the light at the end of the tunnel

James Watson | Paymentshield
24th June 2020
James Watson Paymentshield
"Rather than racing towards a return to the what was, the finance industry should use this time to reflect on what our future should look like."

Around three months after the start of lockdown in the UK, there are small but positive signs of progress. The Government now appears to have a strategy for the easing of restrictions, and the mortgage industry is starting the process of recovery.

For financial advisers, every step towards normality - however incremental it seems - shows a light at the end of the tunnel that will follow what has been a very challenging and worrying period for many.

However, rather than racing towards a return to the what was, the finance industry should use this time to reflect on what our future should look like. There is no doubt that rebuilding after the devastating impact of coronavirus will be challenging, however, there are actions that can be taken now to help adviser businesses become stronger in the long run.

Many advisers have been part of the 27% of UK businesses with reduced staffing levels during the pandemic, with staff also being furloughed. Those still working have found their working day quite different from before and with new kinds of opportunities.

Previously remortgage and product transfer clients have often been overlooked when it comes to a GI conversation, but now with new purchases and home moves being impacted by the virus, the benefits of servicing remortgage and product transfer clients with a more holistic approach are being identified. It’s for this reason we developed a new 3 month payment holiday option in our Adviser Hub to help clients who may be in temporary financial difficultly, and also those remortgage and product transfer clients who may be mid-term and need a little more temptation away from their current provider.

Another opportunity has been to use the time previously spent commuting to the office or travelling to appointments on professional development will allow advisers to expand on their knowledge and skills, which can then be used to bolster business post-Covid.

Refocusing efforts towards continuous professional development (CPD) can open up additional business opportunities for advisers, many of whom have suffered from a decline in traditional income streams as a result of the pandemic. For example, our recent research found that 60% of advisers struggle to sell General Insurance (GI). Forty-five per cent said that less than a quarter of advisers in their business actively sell GI. The findings highlighted that many don’t recognise the value of it, despite how lucrative it is; selling four GI policies per month over five years would be worth almost £50,000 in commission. Many will have had ‘getting to grips with GI’ on their to-do list for years, but haven’t managed to get around to it just yet.

Seizing this opportunity to make use of available resources, learn about GI, and sell it will help advisers through the current tough times. Crucially, keeping it as part of the advice process will also bolster businesses long after the pandemic ends. To help advisers become more confident and successful in selling GI, Paymentshield has launched a free CPD pack for advisers. It contains e-books, whitepapers, webinars, and examples of best practice designed to help advisers get started. Its tools can help towards the CPD requirement that forms part of the Insurance Distribution Directive, helping advisers with spare time to work towards their professional development goals.

One skill that all advisers should seek to perfect is the art of conversation. Proactively reaching out to clients, especially as financial worries and uncertainty increase, to talk about their remortgage or general insurance needs is helpful to the customer and hugely beneficial to the adviser’s pipeline. The CPD toolkit provides many resources which outline the practical steps on successful conversations, from offering existing customers a financial review to opportunities with remortgages, product transfers, and renewals.

Using technology to support sales is another learning curve that advisers can tackle during this period. The rise of tech-enabled conversations has been happening for decades, but now that face-to-face meetings are impossible, phone calls, video conferencing, and social media are vital.

However, digital platforms aren’t just useful for communicating with clients - they can also help you build better business networks. Social media also provides a way of building your network to connect with peers and share relevant news and industry insights with one another. Across all industries, people are struggling with the impact of coronavirus, including business disruption, furlough, or balancing working from home with other responsibilities such as childcare. This is on top of individual worries about family and friends, health, and personal finance. We can help each other by joining on social media to discuss those challenges, share advice and encourage each other. This is why Paymentshield has set up a dedicated adviser community group on LinkedIn, as a space for discussion and collaboration.

Making the best of this uncertain time by refocusing efforts onto professional development, expanding business opportunities, and networking are ways of getting through current difficulties. Changing our collective mindset to treat them as on-going habits by setting aside time for them once life goes back to “normal” will ultimately shape advisor businesses - and the wider financial industry - for the better.

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