To make a connection with today’s modern, savvy consumer, financial professionals need to develop specific skill sets to achieve success – especially in a post-Covid world. These are often referred to as “soft skills” and their importance is paramount. Looking at this from the consumer mindset is a great place to begin.
According to the MDRT Generational Confidence study, 85 percent of consumers across all generations agree that “It is more difficult to trust advisors today versus 5 years ago.” There is a major trust gap between today’s consumer and the advisor. According to LIMRA, 43 percent of households are afraid of making a mistake in their financial decision-making. When people fear making a mistake, they typically end up doing nothing. And 71 percent of consumers report being more confused after they meet with an advisor than before! Equipping advisors with the soft skills to bridge the trust gap, and reduce fear and confusion, is essential to engaging today’s consumers.
Yet over the past decade, soft skills development has taken a back seat to training on hard skills such as compliance, technology, and product. These hard skills often take precedence over other types of learning and development. While this is understandable, this has led to a major gap in the development of soft skills in advisors, a gap that can have a direct negative impact on productivity and retention. In an era of client-centricity, financial professionals cannot succeed without them.
While technology brings many advantages, the latest recruits — raised as digital natives — do not come naturally equipped with the soft skills of their predecessors. Today’s recruits are typically more comfortable interfacing and making connections through devices, yet consumer studies indicate all generations still prefer the face-to-face dynamic when discussing financial matters. According to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, “Somewhat surprisingly … interpersonal skills is where we’re seeing the biggest imbalance. Communications is the No. 1 skills gap across major cities in the United States.”