It’s an old saying that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, and in a year marked by thick clouds of uncertainty, I feel that our latest Financial Advice NZ’s annual conference in November was certainly one of the brightest examples.
As you know, we had an in-person event planned and ready to launch, but unfortunately, for the second year in a row, that wasn’t meant to be. Knowing we had to go with the next best thing, a virtual setting, we also knew that we wanted to deliver a special event. And, the team and our delegates did a great job of exactly that: our 2021 annual gathering was a remarkable display of the sector pulling together, sharing wins, and encouraging one another.
Here’s how it rolled out…
No, not another Zoom
When we thought about the online experience, the last thing we wanted was to deliver a two-day Zoom meeting. In line with the conference theme – ‘Be Inspired, Be Energised’ – we went into discovery-mode and found a state-of-the-art live-streaming platform for our inspiring and energising line-up of speakers to shine.
More BBC-like live production than videoconference, our virtual gathering kept our 502 attendees engaged and entertained. And importantly, conversation was flying, with members interacting with one another non-stop throughout the day.
We might not have been in the same room, but, as an industry, the feeling of being on the same page was there in abundance.
Not your usual agenda
On top of the event’s out-of-the-box digital features, we also wanted to deliver a different-looking agenda. As our weekly ‘Bring In the Experts’ webinars had already been covering a lot of the more technical aspects of the advice profession, we thought a conference could be an ideal opportunity to focus on less conventional angles.
Our fast-moving, upbeat line-up of speakers supported that vision, and there really was something for everyone. From Australia, Future Crunch’s Dr Angus Hervey and Tane Hunter talked about the new frontiers of technological transformation, and how leaders can develop their skill set as trends change.
Transformational speaker Mykel Dixon, also from Australia, inspired our audience to find and follow their ‘inner black sheep’, and reimagine their work and personal life through a more creative lens – something we can all benefit from.
On day two, leadership expert Matt Church focused on the power of motivational leadership to inspire and influence, showing how to master some essential communication tools, bring out the best in people, and inspire others to ‘achieve the unimaginable.’
The following sessions provided a wealth of business tips. Self-proclaimed ‘chief financial planning nerd’ Michael Kitces, from the US, delivered a compelling speech on behavioural finance research, and how it influences clients’ financial decisions.
Also from the US, global business expert and executive coach John Spence tackled customer service excellence, covering ideas and tools that advisers can use to increase client satisfaction and loyalty. The core concept was to turn clients into ambassadors by approaching customer service as a craft.
Professor Paul Spoonley was another key highlight. The renowned demographer from Massey University presented a topical session on demographic change, and the impact on the future face of New Zealand. With our country facing a wave of unprecedented social and population change, Prof. Spoonley provided attendees with a sneak peek into their future customer base, and how businesses can stay relevant in this changing world.
These are just some examples that stood out to me, but they give a good picture of how the conference theme was explored, offering a greater view of the environment that the advice sector operates in.
Mental health focus
During the conference, we also looked at providing attendees with tools to support their mental health and resilience. The four Tools for You sessions focused on key soft skills that advisers can apply to their daily business and personal life, including practical learnings around how to build physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
The importance of mental health within the advice sector cannot be overstated. 2021, and 2020 before it, have been tough years for everyone, advisers included. And, depending on the maturity and type of the advice business, some have felt the impact more than others. New insurance advisers, for example, who largely rely on clients coming through the door, have certainly been affected.
But the reality is, a profession based on empathy and close-knit relationships with clients, couldn’t help but feel the impact of these unprecedented times. This connection is what creates loyalty, trust, and growth – the foundation of financial advice itself. But this desire of helping, listening to concerns, and providing solutions can also affect advisers’ wellbeing.
On top of this, we must not forget that pandemic-related workloads coincided with a period of intense regulatory change. And, unfortunately, that has added to the stress. According to preliminary results from AIA-sponsored research, published in early December, 41% of almost 600 Kiwi advisers surveyed said that work overload was a major cause of stress. Sixty-one per cent (61%) found it stressful to comply with the new regulatory framework, and 25% of all advisers surveyed said they were even considering leaving the industry.
This is not just concerning for the sector; it’s concerning for Kiwis’ financial wellbeing and New Zealand’s path to recovery. If we want advisers to be a driving force in the economy, they need to be able to look after themselves first, so that they can then look after their families, team, and clients. And we’re here to support them every step of the way.
Here to help
Financial Advice NZ is committed to providing all our members with the tools and support they need to successfully navigate change and feel inspired and energised.
Visit financialadvice.nz/adviser-support to learn more about our initiatives, including our adviser peer-to-peer support service as well as our ongoing and ever-expanding ‘Bring in the Experts’ webinar series. With 93 webinars since COVID-19, and over 10,000 viewers, we’re really pleased with the response so far and look forward to bringing even more in the new year.
Here at Financial Advice NZ, our focus in the last year has been on how we look after ourselves, each other and the advisers we are here to serve. I hope you feel that we have only been a phone call away and are here to assist in any way we can.
The team at Financial Advice NZ wish all advisers a relaxing, restful, and healthy holiday break.