Want to be treated like a rock star?

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Advisers who go beyond required professional standards could be rewarded by extra accreditation, peer recognition at awards ceremonies and lower professional insurance premiums.

Around 270 advisers who are part of Suncorp Life’s self-employed dealer groups, Suncorp Financial Planning and Guardian Advice, will soon get the chance to be recognised for their extra hard work.

Suncorp Life dealerships head Simon Harris told Wealth Professional the rewards idea came from advisers within the dealership, who thought there is more publicity about the industry for “rogue” advisers rather than the ones who give financial advice a good reputation.

“Some of our advisers who consistently invest in their development and education and are running very sustainable professional businesses, feel perhaps as an industry we don’t recognise high achievement as much as we should do, and they came to us and asked whether there could be a benchmark they could aim towards.”

The company’s management thought about what constitutes professionalism and came up with a list of benchmarks – not yet finalised – that advisers within their dealer group can get rewards by reaching.

One is being a member of a professional association with a code of conduct; another is investing in further education, particularly beyond what is required by their particular licensee.

Building sustainable revenue streams will be encouraged and rewarded, such as using hybrid and level commission structures for life insurance.

“So when times are tough or the market down, they’ll be fine,” Harris said.

Suncorp Life will form “some sort” of accreditation process, largely within their dealer groups.

“It’ll be something our advisers feel proud of achieving, of looking good in front of their peers. It’ll mean more good news stories for advisers. It might be through newsletters, social media, awards ceremonies – but it’ll be turning these advisers into rock stars,” said Harris.

Harris believes advisers will be more excited about peer recognition than the other reward – less professional insurance premiums for those advisers that meet the professional requirements.

“We haven’t finalised how low the lowered PI premiums would go, but we’re hoping around 10% lower from what they’re now paying. We think that would be tangible and meaningful,” he said.

Suncorp Life has spoken to advisers around the country and sought feedback from the Guardian Advice National Advisory Council on the rewards plan, which is still in its beginning stages. The programme is likely to be launched at the Guardian Advice national conference in September.

Harris said the rules on achieving the benchmarks will be flexible, so while the adviser would have to be a member of a professional association, there will not be specifications on each one.

“And in terms of compliance ratings, there would be a hurdle and a benchmark that they would have to achieve in their annual advice insurance audit, and with learning and development they would have to show an extra commitment outside of our mandatory learning and development training for the year.”

But does this programme just add an extra burden on top of already FOFA-stretched advisers?

“I think the difference with this one is it'll be a voluntary aspirational accreditation rather than compulsory,” said Harris.

“All the things they’ve had to do to get their business FOFA-complient are hygiene factors and non-negotiable. Advisers understand that and have embraced that. This is something over and beyond but it’s purely voluntary. People can opt in or opt out of it at any time – pardon the pun, you shouldn’t use that terminology in our industry,” he joked.

There will be no set limit to how many advisers can achieve the annual benchmarks.

“We really want this to be aspirational for our advisers. We want to drive professionalism and have some tangible rewards and recognition for those advisers who undertake that journey and continually improve themselves,” Harris said.

“Because we firmly believe that the better quality advice that we deliver to consumers, the more they will value advice. And that is a good thing for advisers and consumers.”
 
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