Advisers need to bring realness back into their conversations with clients in order to win back trust eroded during hearings at the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, prominent practitioners and licence owners have said.

“You can’t force trust and emotion,” Madison Financial Group chief executive Annick Donat said.

It’s time for advisers to go to their clients with genuine intent and say, ‘I want to get it right, can we start again?’, Donat said, speaking on the sidelines of the Professional Planner Licensee Summit.

Where the industry has gone wrong is the way it’s interpreted the implementation of advice, Donat reckons.

“Advisers want to have the conversation, but through the process they’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to have this document, or say these words, or get this signed.’ And [meanwhile] the client is thinking, ‘What are you not telling me?’ ” Donat explained. “Disjointed conversations [make it] difficult to build and engender trust.”

Rebuilding trust with clients was one of the main themes throughout the two-day Licensee Summit held in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in early June. Several conference participants offered ideas.

“I think the industry has lost trust over a long time. It doesn’t just happen overnight. That’s the first point,” Peita Diamantidis, cofounder of Caboodle Financial Services, said. “The advice industry has become very disconnected from the public. To win that back, the public needs to see you as standing alongside them on a journey. They want you to be understanding their lives, their needs, their desires.”

Transparency is one area advisers can vastly improve, said Azaria Bell, Financial Planning Association University Student of the Year and an adviser assistant at Stonehouse Group. She also saw positives in the royal commission.

“As a young person, I think the royal commission is more of an opportunity than a threat,” Bell said. “As someone new, coming in with lots of ideas and a positive attitude, it’s a good opportunity to see where the gaps are and what we need to do to fill those [gaps].”

In terms of communication, advisers can use technology more effectively to paint a picture of their clients’ financial lives and goals, Alex Naylor, head of enterprise and professional solutions at Grow Super, said.

Adding value through education without asking for anything in return is something advisers can do straight away to start rebuilding trust, Naylor said.

Smith is the editor of Professional Planner’s print and digital platforms. He is an experienced financial journalist, editor and multimedia producer who has held senior editorial positions both in mainstream press and trade media.
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