Advisers have faced a time of upheaval like no other over the past 12 months, with COVID-19 hitting at the same time as preparations for a new regime were in full swing.
Support from broker networks played a key part in holding many businesses together, and Steadfast NZ CEO Bruce Oughton said his own group had been working hard to ensure that every member of its network had the tools and support they needed to get through dealing with clients remotely, while also making sure that they were complying with an often complex new regime.
“When COVID hit, we sat down and talked our member brokers through what they needed to do,” Oughton said.
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“We have HR policies within the network to make sure that staff are all comfortable working from home, that they have the right environment, the right equipment, etc. We gave our members guidance with that, and we’ve always had helplines to lawyers who specialise in things like HR, so they always had access to that kind of assistance.”
“At the same time they also had to get ready for legislation, and that was a big deal,” he continued.
“While they are each responsible for themselves as Financial Advice Providers, we gave them a lot of documentation, roadshows and workshops on how to be compliant, and how to act in the client’s best interest.”
Oughton said that a lot of the requirements in the legislation were already being done routinely by Steadfast’s advisers, but the complex part was that now, everything needed to be documented. He said the key piece of advice he gave Steadfast’s brokers was to use the right technology as much as possible, and to cut the legwork from anything that could be automated.
“What we emphasise to our advisers is to try to automate as much as possible, and that’s probably the easiest part,” Oughton said.
“The government has already told them what they must disclose and when, so it’s just a case of ensuring that they do that.”
“The policies and practices that sit behind that – like identifying vulnerable clients, for example – will need more thought,” he said.
“Because it’s not just about identifying them, it’s about what they are going to do to ensure that they’re assisted. It has been a big change for everyone.”
“We’re going to be focusing on helping our advisers a lot over the next few years as far as the legislation goes, and we want to make sure they’re confident about it,” he added.
“It’s their license that’s at stake if they’re not complying, but we’re very confident that they all know what they’re doing and have a good grasp of what the requirements mean for them.”