Opinion: Advisers are getting soft

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"Many advisers have stopped being seen as sources of good advice I suspect," says financial adviser coach Tony Vidler. He explains why clients are in need of some tough love.

On the weekend a fabulous article was published by Diana Clement titled "No excuses for not saving or acting your wage".  What made it fabulous was the directive given to a number of quoted advisers (including yours truly) to cut through the claptrap and get down to some brutal "in your face" financial advice for consumers.

One of the things that financial advisers (indeed; any professional) has to be able to do is deliver tough conversations and direct advice. You have to diagnose the illness and prescribe the treatment whether the patient wants the bad news or not. I think we have been veering away from this fundamental professional obligation to deliver the tough stuff.  

That is actually the really good advice – that tough stuff. It is the tough conversations that provoke change and corrective action on the part of clients…that lead to the results which the clients actually want us to help them achieve.

There could be any number of reasons why we have drifted away from having tough conversations with clients in the main. Perhaps we live in softer times. Perhaps we are more concerned with client complaints or liability issues. Perhaps we lack confidence as an industry?

Whatever the reason, we need to get comfortable with calling ourselves "advisers" again.  That is what we do. That is what clients want us to do. That is what they pay us for. Sure we might call the practice a planning firm or some such…but individually? We are advisers. We give advice.

We've been dabbling and tinkering for some years with new professional styles and labels such as holistic planning, lifestyle planning, financial coaching and so on, and perhaps these labels obscure the real work we do:

We analyse a situation professionally and objectively, and then deliver the diagnosis and the prescribed treatment. Whether the patient wants to hear it or not.

It is a tough job, and relatively few people have the combination of the right mind-set, skillset and attitude to be able to do this effectively. Being able to objectively assess a situation and then deliver the tough advice with empathy is what great advisers do.

Be tough when you need to be in order to create change for clients. That's what will make you a really great adviser, so go and be one.