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It is a given that competence is required to produce anything valuable, to service clients and in general, to be successful. However, the question that needs to be asked is, is competence demanded and valued by everyone in a profession. Having been trained as an engineer and technology professional, competence and continuous learning are traits that are taken for granted in the engineering and technology industry. Is this true in the Financial Services Industry where an insurance agent and a mutual fund distributor call themselves wealth managers?
Earlier this month, I attended a Financial Planners' conference in Mumbai. One of the experts with more than 25 years' experience in the Financial Planning field mentioned that quality research focus is missing amongst the practicing professionals. Needless to say, the focus has to be both at the institutional level and the individual level.
Firstly, the clients need to insist on demanding competence and experience from their financial planners and wealth managers. Please remember you can get cheap (or seemingly free) services but are you willing to accept incompetence. Be prepared to pay for quality and demand excellence. You get what you expect and ask for. There is a famous saying "Don't kill the golden goose" so it is in clients' interest to have a sustainable ecosystem where clients get quality services and advisors have sustainable business models. Assess fee in the context of the value of the services rather than standalone.
Secondly, whether you are a boutique firm or an individual, you need to invest in developing competence. There are professional certifications like CFP, CFA etc. that help build the domain knowledge and gather recognition also. Firms need to encourage their team members to pursue structured learning and they should put HR policies to incentivise.
Thirdly, look at ways to improve your work every day. Most learning happens on the job and it is important that constant advancement happens in the methods employed. It is important to keep yourself updated not only about your field but also about the world. More and more information is available through the Internet and attention spans have become less and less. Dedicate at least one hour (even better if it is two) every day to read informative books, journals and magazines. Reading is more participative and hence stays much longer with you.
Fourthly, firms should put skill set mapping, training and mentorship programs in place to build strengths in identified areas. Even if you are a small firm or a startup, this is essential. There are cost-effective ways, e.g., training and mentorship by more experienced team members, online and distance learning courses and meaningful conversations on a topic that are available and helpful.
Fifthly, don't just confine yourself within your work but exchange ideas with your team-members and even clients. Wealth management is all about relationships and it helps to know your clients thought process so that customized solutions can be designed. Financial affairs are quite personal and clients need to know you as a person so that they can trust you. So communicate and communicate intelligently!
Overall, no one should underestimate the importance of competence in the financial industry. There should be no short-term approaches here. Mitraz Financial practices this with firm-wide approach of identifying developmental goals. There are regular coaching and training sessions for all the team members. Specific goals are identified to improve the processes, the templates and the delivery mechanisms. The more experienced team members play the role of mentors. Dedicated and regular feedback sessions - lateral, upward, downward - develop team harmony, improve collaboration and provide inputs to continually build the skill set.
The writer is the Managing Director of Mitraz Financial Services Pvt. Ltd and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org