Continuous Learning: How a Changing World Has Made It Important for Financial Advisors to Prioritize Lifelong Learning

The discipline of financial planning constantly changes. Each year new rules are introduced, and regulators tend to amend new tax laws and regulations as market conditions and individual investor needs change.

For advisors, this requires them to stay informed about the latest developments in the industry, ensuring they can provide their clients with the financial solutions that are best suited to their clients’ needs, but further remain compliant with new laws and regulations.

Continuous learning can be one of the most important investments of their career. During the first three to five years, roughly 80 to 90 percent of advisors will close their practice. Additionally, approximately 72 percent of new advisors will fail due to the inability to keep up with the fast-paced working environment or unable to cope with the pressure of the job.

Becoming a successful advisor is more than fostering loyal client relationships and building trust with advisory partners. A large portion of the work that goes into becoming a successful advisor lies with the ability to remain curious, seek new opportunities to learn and build a mindset of intentional curiosity.

How To Become A Lifelong Learner

For advisors, their time behind the books seems never quite to end. Despite this, advisors often spend 50 percent of their time working on direct client-related activities, and an additional 20 percent on client meetings.

Overall, 80 percent of an advisor's time is usually spent on behind-the-scenes activities, which do not include client-centric work. Having spent a large part of their daily schedules attending to their clients - strategizing, building relationships, meeting demands - advisors often have minimal capacity to take up courses, learn new material, or master a set of skills.

Being a lifelong learner is more than taking up a hobby in something that you might find interesting. It’s about allowing yourself to become more intentional about your decisions and finding the capacity to learn as things around you begin to change continuously.

Take on a growth mindset

Doing the same thing over and over can become mundane. Allowing yourself to try new things, whenever in your capacity, will allow you to develop a mindset that remains curious. Start with taking on new things that will positively challenge you, and provide you with an opportunity to create a feedback loop, this way you can see how much you’ve improved, and where you may still need to learn more before mastering a new skill.

Make time for learning new things

As an advisor, you may already have a limited amount of time during the week, or on any given day. Allowing yourself some time, even if this may be an hour at night or during the mornings to learn something new could make a significant difference in the long run. Find a time and place that’s suitable for you, but learn to become more consistent, as this will help you apply new learning techniques that are most suitable for you.

Commit yourself to improvement

Accelerating your career will require you to stay informed about industry trends, changing markets, and clients adapting to new challenges. Being a continuous learner means that you need to take responsibility for your education, and begin working on a learning style that’s best suited for you. Over time you can make adjustments, or take up more learning materials, however, it’s important that from the start you commit to remaining curious, asking the right questions, and becoming more flexible.

Take advantage of your strengths

Learning anything new can seem daunting at first, but this shouldn’t discourage you from becoming more comfortable with a certain topic or investment. You already know your strengths, and there are specific areas of your career that you excel in. Use these facets to your advantage, and leverage your strengths in a way that can benefit your learning outcomes.

Be more aware of changes

Things can change in an instant, and even in an industry such as business and finance, things don’t necessarily stay the same for very long. Being aware that things do change, and often, will equip you with the ability to be more attentive to specific industry trends. Knowing that something will change over time can mean you have the time to learn and adapt well in advance. However, not everything may take this path, and often advisors are required to make immediate changes. Knowing that this can happen will help put you one step ahead, and prepare you for those changes, should they ever take shape.

Advantages Of Continuous Education For Advisors

Advisors who invest in actively expanding their skills and knowledge tend to have a competitive advantage, enabling them to foster more long-standing relationships with clients and navigate certain challenges effectively.

Becoming an ever-green learner requires proper investment on behalf of advisors, properly ensuring that they are equipped with the necessary tools to undertake and master new skills and have access to relevant resources to assist them throughout the process.

To avoid becoming complacent with the stagnation of your learning curve, here’s a look at some of the advantages you can gain as a continuous learner, even if you may already be a seasoned professional.

Navigate new tax regulations and compliance standards

At any given time lawmakers decide to amend tax rules, and this can come as a wrench in the works for advisors who are not properly clued about how these changes will affect their clients.

Being informed, and well-educated about tax changes will ensure that advisors can make the appropriate decisions that positively impact their clients, and do not derail their long-term goals.

Similarly, compliance standards throughout the industry are often adjusted as the market evolves. Certain rules can influence the outcomes of an advisor's work, and without careful consideration thereof could land them in hot water.

With this in mind, taking time to review new compliance standards, not only for your position but within the wider industry can ensure that your strategies are aligned with regulatory requirements and that all of your clients remain compliant for tax and regulatory purposes. These efforts are not only to protect your clients but more importantly, enable you to become more proficient in your line of work and remain on track to accelerate your career.

Understand and apply new investment products more effectively

Each year financial service providers introduce a slew of new investment products. These products can be an improvement from previous ones, meaning that certain adjustments have been made to make them more attractive, or maybe completely new and different from what is currently available on the market.

Any change to an existing investment product can mean something different for each of your clients. Knowing how these changes will affect their long-term strategy, or even the near-term outcomes will help equip you with the skills to successfully navigate specific challenges, or seek a new approach to overcome the burden of change.

More than this, you find that certain products change so much that they are not suitable for certain clients anymore, what do you do then? Perhaps there is a new product that a client can qualify for, but you’re not sure how this will match with their overarching financial goal.

Being informed about how investment products can change, and continuously change over time will bring to light how you can approach your client management techniques. Learning how products are changing means that you can make more informed decisions about your client's future outlook and keep a finger on the pulse of new market developments.

Stay ahead of market trends

Money markets are always changing. Stock prices swing up and down every day. Commodity prices never remain the same. Real estate values can sink at any given moment. Currencies can lose value in foreign exchange markets. Investments can go sour, often without any notice. Being on top of your game is a never-ending activity, but being able to overcome these changes can be the key to your long-term success as an advisor.

Being able to meet, or exceed client expectations is part of the job, and without the right amount of experience or knowledge, achieving success can become incredibly difficult. Keeping up with changing trends and which sectors will impact the market enables you to create more personalized customer portfolios, and ensure you meet client needs.

Having a proactive attitude to learning how market trends are developing provides the insight that will help you guide clients toward more effective investment decisions. More than this, the road towards success, even by the slightest margin, can become easily achievable.

Meet client needs

As markets change over time, so will your clients’ needs. Their circumstances will most likely never remain constant. Clients can change their end goal at any given moment, and this would mean that as an advisor, you will need to personalize their portfolios to meet these new changes.

Whether a client decides to step into retirement earlier or make changes to their contribution levels, these are all things you will need to be aware of and take into account as you foster the relationship while overcoming unexpected obstacles.

Client demand may change due to market forces, which are often outside of your control. One client might find that their portfolio is not equally weighted enough, seeking more exposure to certain securities and asset markets.

Meeting client expectations is a balancing act, and this means that you need to learn how market circumstances may influence client demands, and how you can best leverage each new opportunity. In the end, staying on top of market trends and meeting client expectations isn’t only about achieving the desired results, but establishing the professional relationship each client deserves.

Remain competitive in a dynamic market

Technology and digital tools are helping reshape the industry, bringing to life a new line of opportunities in a fast-paced ecosystem. As an advisor, you have an individual duty to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to use certain tools more effectively and attain more valuable returns for your clients.

Putting yourself in a position whereby you can learn, but also manage your daily tasks more efficiently, create more valuable customer relationships, and keep sight of changing market trends gives you a major advantage compared to other advisors who are more complacent.

Though you might have several years' worth of experience, this experience is not worth much if you’re unable to put it into practice. Demand for advisory positions will never remain the same, and always being one or several steps ahead will help make you stand out in your target market and be at the forefront of next-era disruptions.

Become an authoritative and reliable advisor

Being the smartest person in the room doesn't always come with the authority to be considered a reliable person. You might think that knowing everything will make you a trustworthy colleague or advisor, but oftentimes people might simply see you as a “know-it.”

To avoid becoming a dog with a louder bark than bite it’s important to focus on critical areas and build the necessary expertise that will help you become more reliable for others.

Having a broad general knowledge is important, but more than this, becoming an expert in several areas of your career will allow you to help your clients make more informed decisions while assisting your colleagues with certain challenges.

A continuous learner is someone who knows how the process of obtaining a new skill can equip them with the forward-thinking knowledge to solve future problems more effectively, and with a sense of authority.

How Advisors Can Foster Continuous Self-Education

As with anything, being consistent is the key to overcoming a specific problem or seeking more trustworthy long-term results. Becoming a lifelong learner means that you need to find the appropriate avenues that will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need.

Industry Training Camps and Programs

In an industry that’s constantly changing and seeing new standards being introduced, you are most likely to come across several training camps or education programs that will equip you with new knowledge.

Many companies will provide training to employees or might send employees to specific training camps. Whenever this opportunity comes your way, make sure that you understand the benefits, and how leveraging these activities will improve your performance and client satisfaction.

Online Seminars

Professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn are flooded with like-minded professionals who share relevant information regarding the industry and their work. Similarly, many professionals now provide online training or courses either in the form of webinars or in group sessions.

Attending an online webinar can put you in direct contact with an industry leader and other professionals who all share similar values. These webinars are often free and can be attended from anywhere in the world, making it a convenient way to learn on the go.

Industry White Papers

Reading is a big part of your job, and giving yourself reading homework after a long day at work might not be the most exciting thing there is to do. Nonetheless, reading industry white papers or following specific media channels that publish relevant industry insight and news can help you stay up to date about the industry and how things have changed throughout your career.

Social Media and Podcasts

The internet is a hotbed of information, however, it’s important to differentiate between the good, the mediocre, and the bad. Searching for authoritative figures online will help open a new world through which you can learn about the industry. Many professionals often share advice, tips, and other articles on their social media, and these are all free tools that you can use to your advantage.

Final Thoughts

As an advisor, continuous education forms part of your profession in more ways than you might imagine. Being an active, and ongoing learner can equip you with valuable skills that can help you make more informed decisions and provide your clients with quality advice that meets their level of satisfaction.

Being a continuous learner shouldn’t feel like a chore, but instead, you should approach it with an open mind that allows you to become more proficient in certain areas that will help you achieve more long-term success.

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