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Training should be able to make a difference

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Training should be able to make a difference

When it comes to training or qualifications, or indeed any kind of professional learning, for me there’s always been one non-negotiable, and it comes in the form of them needing to deliver a commercial focus, and therefore having a commercial benefit.

In my opinion, there tends to be too much ‘box-ticking’ in the training and competence (T&C) space, or perhaps more pertinently too much ‘points collating’ or indeed ‘certificate hanging’.

I’ve been to many an advisers’ office and you see countless certificates bedecking the walls, which on the surface appear to show how professional, or good at their job, these advisers are, but are in fact either utterly irrelevant to the client – fire and safety officer for example – or signify a course that was attended, CPD that was gained, and either delivered no commercial benefit or have long since forgotten by the adviser.

It might sound somewhat mercenary but, in my view, each training element that advisers go through should be able to deliver a discernible commercial return, and if it doesn’t, then you might wonder whether it’s of any use in the first place.

In other words, training should be able to make a difference, in terms of the service that is offered, the advice and recommendations that are delivered for a good customer outcome, and ultimately the income that is generated.

What is the point of taking advisers away from their working day for training or to complete qualifications, if when they return they are still in the same place before they left? If they have learnt nothing that can be brought back to the office and can deliver tangible benefits to both them and the firm? And, crucially, which allows them to provide a better service to the client or which has provided them with a new set of opportunities to be explored?

The answer, of course, is there is no point at all, which is why all types of training and skills improvement – in any space, but particularly in the later life lending sector – have to be couched in, and wrapped around, the product element, the client identification element, the use of technology, and ultimately improving the client service and outcome.

It needs to be fit for purpose for advisers, and as its foundation, have practical ramifications for the adviser that allows them to improve their proposition and offering, widens their depth of knowledge of the sector and its solutions, and allows them to increase their income.

Take, for instance, our most recent addition to the modules we offer through our Air Academy platform. Our most recent, and tenth, module is focused on affordability.

Now, up until very recently, affordability was considered in purely absolute terms for advisers when talking to later life clients; however clearly this has changed with Consumer Duty, the regulator’s own focus on understanding the affordability of later life customers, the new product options available within an affordability context, and the ability to service partial as well as full Interest payments.

In other words, the environment has shifted, and as we’ve seen, the notion of there, for example, only being full, roll-up lifetime mortgages on offer to later life clients is no longer the case. You might well argue it has never been.

Affordability is now a major consideration, and rightly so, allowing the adviser to offer up a variety of product solutions that may not have been reviewed before; plus, of course, there is a changing customer demographic with increasing volumes of customers in their 50s facing the prospect of carrying house purchase debt into retirement  and this requires an advisory profession that is not ‘stuck’ in one silo, but can have these affordability discussions, and has access to the greater array of products now available.

For all these reasons and more, we felt it was vitally important to provide advisers with access to this affordability module – which like all the others has been accredited by the London Institute of Banking & Finance – and could take participants through this reshaped process and environment, and would give them the tools and skills to be able to navigate it, use it within their firms, and benefit from it in terms of growing client numbers. While making sure they were provided with the right solution, whether lifetime mortgage (with or without mandatory payments), RIO, mainstream or any others, including non-product options.

It’s perhaps why the Academy has recently celebrated its 10th birthday – because there is an understanding of the constant change within the sector and therefore the constant need for ongoing training which reflects that change, and which delivers this through practical and relevant support.

This is certainly something for firms to think about as they seek to provide their later life advisers with the training they need – ask the question: how will it impact on the individuals concerned and how will it benefit both them and the firm? If you’re struggling to find a positive answer, then you might come to the conclusion that it is training for training’s sake, and it is better not to do it.

Instead, focus on the training that speaks to the job now and in the future, and supports the adviser to better carry out that role. By doing this, you improve the situation for the individual, the firm and the client. Not forgetting the bottom line.

Stuart Wilson is Chairman of Air Club

First published in The Intermediary on 4th April 2024 –

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