Laura Calcroft, who heads up the Future Adviser Event, explores how wellbeing should be forefront of financial services’ thoughts - and what we can do to improve wellbeing in our industry, both for clients and ourselves.
What is wellbeing? The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy’. It has become something of a buzzword in recent years, encompassing the broader awareness of mental health and the effect it can have on our ability to cope with daily life. In reality, it means different things to different people - often including the state of our physical, mental, social or financial health.
It’s no surprise that a year like 2020 would have a negative impact on our wellbeing; repeated lockdown and restrictions on what we can do, as well as fear about the pandemic and more people than ever working in less-than-ideal conditions at home. But this is not solely a problem brought about by coronavirus: many people were already suffering with their wellbeing.
A recent Gallup State of Global Workforce survey found that 53% of workers experience financial stress, while 76% struggle with physical well-being and an astonishing 85% are disengaged from work. In practice, this means that more than half of your clients may be experiencing difficulties in more than one aspect of their lives.
Of course, advisers aren’t a catch-all service. You are not trained counsellors or doctors, and your clients’ wellbeing may not be relevant to the advice you give them. But there are aspects of wellbeing (or the lack of it) that can affect the advice process, and it is key that advisers are able to recognise when that may become a factor.
In its 2019 Guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, the Financial Conduct Authority noted that a ‘physical or mental health condition is a driver of potential vulnerability’. With up to 17% of millennials (ages 24 - 39) suffering from depression and 14% suffering from anxiety, it is not only older borrowers looking at equity release who may be vulnerable.
So how can advisers support their clients? Jeremy Duncombe, director of intermediary distribution at Accord Mortgages, said in a recent podcast that “promoting financial wellbeing should be intrinsic to the whole advice process”, and noted that advisers should be encouraging clients to be realistic about their budgets to avoid undue financial stress in future, as well as advocating for better protection coverage.
Helping to remove stigma is also key. Debbie Kennedy, protection director at LV=, said recently of the statistic that 29% of income protection claims are made for mental health conditions: “As an industry there is still work to do in addressing the obstacles that people feel when openly talking about mental health issues”. As well as informing decisions about protection, advisers making the effort to actively encourage discussions about mental health with their clients creates an honest and supportive environment which helps to remove that stigma from the financial advice process.
It goes without saying that advisers, too, should take care of their own health and wellbeing - as they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Firms in the industry have made strides recently to address the mental wellbeing of advisers - Sesame, for example, offers advisers free health & wellbeing support, including counsellors, while Openwork is offering its employees flexible time to spend with family and access to mental health support apps like Calm.
Distributor Crystal Specialist Finance launched a long-term health and wellbeing campaign for the intermediary sectors in August in cooperation with the mental health charity Mind - with plans to introduce a mentoring programme in coming months. A survey undertaken as part of the campaign revealed that just 13% of brokers are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night - a worrying figure, when it has been shown that poor sleep or sleep deprivation can be a factor in poor physical and mental health.
With poor wellbeing - in its various forms, be it financial, physical or mental - come a host of other problems, including in work or with personal relationships. It is clear that keeping wellbeing at the forefront of our minds - whether with clients, or for ourselves - is key. But how do we do that?
The Future Adviser Event aims to tackle this question, among others, in its upcoming Health & Wellbeing Event. A digital forum, kindly sponsored by Mortgage Advice Bureau and held on Friday 27th November, the event features four speakers covering different aspects of financial, mental and physical wellbeing.
Clare Jupp of Brightstar will discuss workplace wellbeing and how to support yourself and employees in the age of Covid-19, including looking at home working, management remotely, and how to boost mental & physical wellbeing in the workforce.
Next, Mortgage Advice Bureau’s Compliance Director Sharon Trinder will look at how changes in mental and physical wellbeing could affect a clients’ vulnerability, and how advisers can work with these changes in mind. For an overview of how wellbeing affects or industry, Johnny Timpson of Scottish Widows will explore how shifts in national physical and mental health may change how we work; including the effects on Critical Illness and Income Protection business and how mortgage holidays may temporarily change the face of advice.
Finally, Roger Morris - representing Kent Reliance for Intermediaries - will deliver a practical session on recognising burnout in your own working life, and how to improve personal wellbeing.
It is set to be an interesting and thought-provoking event, with the importance of wellbeing covered through the lens of our industry, by people who understand the unique stresses and factors that are unique to working in financial advice. We hope that you, the advisers, will join us and take something away from the event - whether to improve your own wellbeing, or to help inform the way you approach the subject with your clients.
This year has been difficult for many people. The Future Adviser Event’s ‘Health & Wellbeing Event’ aims to look at ways to protect ourselves and our clients even in the face of adversity, no matter whether it is global or personal.
To join the Health & Wellbeing Event by the Future Adviser Event, please register for your free place here. The event will take place on Friday 27th November at 10:00am.