Editor’s note: an edited version of this was originally published on Advisor Perspectives’ website here.
Hug a teacher today (even if only virtually)! Whether you are interested in changing the world, learning a new skill, or mastering a piece of software, those who stand up to provide instruction are opening doors to you that might otherwise remain closed.
Education and training, regardless of your career path, are important. Period. They stand as core pillars of my approach to helping advisors create successes in their business with our software. Creating a common, foundational understanding of how to use our services is a huge part of what my team works on each and every day, as we understand our efforts can potentially help alleviate some commonly recognized industry problems under the umbrella of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
The wealth management and financial advice industry is a difficult one to break into. Advisor trainee failure rates are high in our industry to begin with, regardless of an advisor’s race or gender, but a 2020 Cerulli survey found that there are more barriers to entry for women and BIPOC advisors. So, as you can imagine, those potential stumbling blocks at this stage in an advisor’s career can feel insurmountable for the individual while at the same time contributing to the perpetuation (and possible widening) of the existing diversity problem throughout our industry. Education and training can play a huge role in breaching those barriers to help ensure the diversity among financial advisors better matches the clients they serve.
The specific barriers the survey discusses affect both recruiting and retention, and a lack of emphasis on teaching/training often means nothing more than lip service is being paid toward addressing these issues. As providers of solutions in this industry, we would like to convey benefit to everyone who uses them. Challenges and barriers exist for those who have been in the industry for decades as well as for the newcomers, even if those challenges present in a different form. New technologies can be intimidating for the advisor who has been tied to file cabinets and notepads over the course of a long career, even if those technologies offer the promise over time of making their work lives easier. Expecting seasoned advisors or those just entering the profession to simply pick up and run with ANY new (to them) tool or technology without a little assistance and training is setting a huge percentage of them up to run their practices at less than maximum efficiency or effectiveness.
We know it’s important that we check our egos at the door when it comes to client service. It’s a nice thought to believe that advisors and clients will be motivated enough to fully understand your software or tech offering to read the manual in their spare time, (what is spare time? Asking for a friend) and teach themselves how to use it with little or no direction from the company who sold it to them. But a nice thought is about all that is.
Given the above context, we have found great success in providing a fun, energetic learning environment to meet the needs and diverse goals of each office and advisor we encounter through deep consideration of the following three things: diverse learning styles, varying experience levels, and the importance of repetition.
Diverse learning styles
Did you know there are seven primary learning styles that many teachers aim to use when teaching a classroom? Shout out to those educators who are responsible for engaging students’ minds with auditory, verbal, visual, tactile, social, independent, and logical teaching styles throughout their lesson plans to serve their students equitably and better ensure everyone understands. As primarily a logical type of learner myself, I have nonetheless benefitted from the shift toward an educational future where more emphasis has been placed on each of these learning techniques in classroom spaces; for example, virtual spaces like webinars run by my dedicated and highly knowledgeable colleagues both at Redtail Technology and at other financial service and technology companies with whom we work in collaboration. As learning is opened up to all through these different approaches, we find participation grows and we in turn learn more from those we are there to teach than we would otherwise, which is a huge win for all parties involved.
Varying experience levels
Beyond learning styles, there is also each student’s experience level to consider. Often teachers have classes where students have varied skills sets, and catering to this to make content engaging for students at all levels is an important part of making sure the material lands. Making education scalable to the student’s comprehension level is key to being inclusive.
One way that we address this at Redtail University (RTU) is by creating two separate tracks for our newer users and our more experienced users. For newer users, we keep it to the nuts-and-bolts. For our more experienced users, we focus on how to strategically tackle common situations with our CRM. And, once a year we also offer the RTU Masters’ course, which is best suited for Redtail power users looking to dive deep.
Since we offer these two learning tracks as well as RTU Masters, students don’t need to worry that they’ll be either bored by information they’ve heard many times over or, conversely, looking for a life raft as they swim in a sea of high-level nerd speak.
Repetition is key
You know how when you watch a movie for a second or third (or 50th) time you may catch details of the story you missed on previous viewings? Surprisingly, sometimes a previously missed detail is integral to the storyline. The same goes for teaching financial advisors about software. Throughout my career teaching advisors, we’ve found that repetition is often key, which is why we make available similar lessons on a recurring basis for all our users, rather than just those who are new to our platform.
Our users say they learn something new every time they take a class with us, and because each session is attended by different groups of people the questions and topics for discussion are never static. For example, a more data-driven advisor may share with us that they appreciated the opportunity to understand the backend and context behind how our CRM works, whereas an advisor focused on client communication may be more excited to refresh their practice management skills by paying attention to the parts of our service that have the greatest impact on client service.
A focus on education is a step toward making the wealth of our world available to more people by advancing and implementing inclusive learning strategies that meet the vast range of advisor needs across all identities, backgrounds, and perspectives. By focusing on the above and dedicating resources to facilitate greater understanding of the solutions they offer, fintech providers can be confident that every advisor they serve is equipped with the information they need to leverage that solution to their benefit and the benefit of their business.