AN INVESTMENT IN ADVISOR EDUCATION PAYS THE BEST INTEREST

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Benjamin Franklin’s assertion that “an investment in education pays the best interest” came to mind last week when Standard Chartered Private Bank announced the launch of their new advisor training programme in collaboration with leading business school, INSEAD. The new academy is intended to provide front-line staff with a “refreshed set of skills” for the “evolving” role of the modern wealth advisor.

Just three days earlier, Standard Chartered had revealed that they would be more than doubling the entry level for clients in the private bank from USD2 million to USD5 million. The concurrence of these announcements highlights the strategic importance of cultivating minimum standards of quality in the advisory workforce to effectively service client needs.

Relationship managers and advisors carry responsibility for being the “face” of wealth management, simultaneously being ambassadors for the quality of the brand, the proposition and the client experience. Ensuring that advisors are comprehensively trained may not only have an impact on their competency, but may also have the potential to deliver outcomes for the business and, most importantly, to client too. [Figure 1]

Broadly, we have noted three strands for professional development which all have a different role to play in cultivating these outcomes: industry/ association qualifications, in-house programmes and academic programmes.

Figure 1: The outcomes of advisor education

Figure 1

Source: Scorpio Partnership

Independent industry associations or professional bodies are important because they can contribute to elevating industry standards. While the “alphabet soup” of qualifications on offer can be confusing to advisors and clients, the very best are defined by their rigor and distinguished by the breadth and depth of expertise which is generated.

Many firms actively encourage employees to seek out professional credentials like the CFA charter. Some even make externally validated qualifications mandatory signalling their recognition that an expertly-trained workforce can foster a reputation for brand quality and enhance proposition delivery.

Crucially, a recent study undertaken by Scorpio Partnership and CFA institute reveals that clients believe that independently verified credentials will become more important to shape their future relationship. In fact, 90% of NextGen clients (Under 35 years old) reference that the significance of an advisor’s qualifications to their wealth management will increase in the next five years [Figure 2]. Being able to evidence employee credentials will likely become even more important for firms.

Figure 2: Future of important of qualifications

Q: [Asked to wealthy individuals] In five years’ time, do you believe that the importance you ascribe to professional qualifications in wealth management will change?

Figure 2

Source: CFA Institute, Scorpio Partnership, 2017

The independent verification of professional certifications makes them highly appealing. But, in-house training and development can play a complimentary role in cultivating alignment between advisors and the brand’s vision and culture.

Many firms develop their own programmes to drive an internal commitment to excellence. These are typically run for the top-performing personnel in recognition of their achievements. For example, Citi announced the launch of Citi Wharton Global Wealth Institute in 2015. They offer a multi-year global executive education programmes for wealth advisors in partnership with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to Citi’s top-performing relationship managers and advisors. The firm highlighted, among other things, a commitment to develop knowledge and skills in leadership, ethics and personal effectiveness.

Similar, but slightly nuanced from these initiatives are those developed by educational institutions from another sphere or sector. While these programmes are also often driven by wealth management institutions, they seek to leverage expertise which is congruent to but thematically distinct from wealth management. The intention is often to provide best-in-class instruction on service and delivery and, as with in-house programmes, they can contribute to employee engagement.

 

An interesting case of borrowing the knowledge from an adjacent sphere is programmes that are offered by Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), a Swiss university specialising in hospitality management. In 2015, for example, in a bid to improve customer satisfaction Banque Cantonale Vaudoise (BCV) ran a one-day training programme for all of its employees on delivering high-quality customer service in partnership with EHL. The impact was quickly visible with the bank reportedly seeing a significant improvement in their client satisfaction scores.

Clearly, many firms are already making headway with innovative initiatives to build expertise among advisors. Those who have yet to formalise professional development would be wise to consider the triumvirate of professional certification, in-house development and leveraging non-traditional or academic expertise. Each can contribute to improving business performance but all are fundamental to developing and enhancing the client experience.

News from the world of wealth:

Coutts Hong Kong fined for breaking anti-money laundering rules – Financial Times

Charles Stanley unveils portfolio service for small clients – FT adviser

Personalize The Client Experience With These 5 Questions – WealthManagement.com

Financial Advisers Put Faith in Religion-Based Investing – The Wall Street Journal

Wealth Management in 2017: Oh, the Humanity – CFA Enterprising Investor Blog

 

Thought of the week:

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” –  Albert Einstein (Physics legend).

Valeriya Semenova Scorpio PartnershipAuthor: Valeriya Semenova, Manager at Scorpio Partnership

Expertise: Val’s primary focus is data analytics and insight.

Background: Val holds a MSc Global Banking and Finance degree from Regent’s University London as well as BSc Economics and Finance from London School of Economics and BSc Economics from Higher School of Economics (Moscow).

 

Cover photo from Rafael Sato, used under the creative commons license

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