Dr Adam Fraser is a human performance researcher, consultant and author who studies how people and organisations adopt a high-performance culture and the importance of wellbeing to thrive in this challenging and evolving world.
2020 was a challenging year for many, but for financial advisers, challenges are nothing new. In just the last few years, financial advisers have had to navigate changes to products, commissions and education standards, to name a few. But through it all, they remain committed to their clients who are often experiencing financial difficulty and physical or mental illness.
In late 2020, I worked with Dr John Molineux from Deakin University, with the support of life, health and wellbeing insurer AIA Australia, to conduct a study into the physical and mental wellbeing of Australia’s financial advisers. The findings were confronting and amongst the worst in years of studying other industries, however there was room for optimism.
Among those who reported high levels of stress and uncertainty, is a cohort of financial advisers who thrive. ‘Thrivers’ exhibit strategies and behaviours that allow them to grow their businesses, despite these significant challenges, while maintaining work-life balance and being physically and mentally healthy.
The finding that fascinated John and I was that the Thrivers don’t belong to a specific age group, gender, location, level of experience or education – there is no demographic that defines them. In addition, Thrivers shared the same concerns and frustrations about the changing nature of the industry and the occupational requirements, however they are able to focus on constructive behaviours needed to achieve further professional growth.
There were six aspects where Thrivers set themselves apart.
Psychological flexibility, this is a specific psychological skill set that stops them being controlled by the emotions and thoughts they have about the challenges they face. In other words, the thrivers were able to park their emotions and thoughts on a topic and let their values and goals guide their behaviour rather than emotions.
Psychological capital, which is made up of hope, confidence, resilience, and optimism. High psychological capital allows the ‘thrivers’ to overcome significant challenges and setbacks.
Adaptability, which is a person’s capacity to quickly alter their behaviour to suit a rapidly changing environment.
Prioritising wellbeing, which is looking after their own wellbeing through practices such as physical activity, mindfulness and relaxation. It also included a person’s ability to take time to intentionally work through stressful situations, and to ask for help and support during these periods.
Effective utilisation of time, allowing more time to be devoted to client meetings, new business and developing themselves and others, rather than focusing their time on administrative and compliance activities. Thrivers where possible outsourced compliance and admin work to focus on the parts of the business that really energised them.
Engagement in industry support, through discussions with peers and industry leaders, as well as seeking to drive innovation.
These findings illustrate that there is some good news in the report for the future of the financial advice industry as these are skills that can be learnt. We recommend advisers attend bespoke support programs to gain these skills. In addition, engage in support through various forums to collaborate with their peers where they can discuss the impacts of the challenges facing the industry, as this can significantly improve the wellbeing of financial advisers.
While there is definitely work to be done, the good news is that there are behaviours that financial advisers can look to incorporate and develop right away, which will help put them on a path to thriving. These strategies will not remove the external challenges, but they will help financial advisers to navigate them and thrive regardless of the disruption.
AIA Australia’s dream is for Australia to be one of the healthiest and best protected nations in the world. As a life, health and wellbeing insurer, we recognise the important role that financial advisers play in providing Australians with financial advice so that they can protect their futures. We encourage members of the financial advice industry to read the ‘Australian Financial Advisers Wellbeing Report 2021’ to benefit from small but effective steps you can take to help you thrive regardless of the challenging landscape. CEO and Managing Director of AIA Australia and New Zealand, Damien Mu.