I can’t get Pulp’s ‘Do You Remember the First Time’ out of my head. I’m pretty sure that Jarvis had other things on his mind when he wrote the lyrics back in 1994 but I hope this will be one of many occasions when I get to give you my thoughts and views on this amazing profession we work in.

By way of introduction, my name is Paul Sylvester-Evans and I head up Training here at The Verve Group. I often get asked what I do and I take a great deal of pride in telling people that every day, I get to work with amazing firms that are fully committed to the coaching and development of their people, and who are serious about career progression and who want everyone in every role to have the skills, knowledge and expertise to deliver the service their clients deserve.

It was really interesting to read Maddie’s Eclipse last week when she referred to the ‘Business Prevention Unit’. When I meet advisers for the first time as part of our Training and Competence service, I often get told ‘So you’re compliance then’. A lot of this stems from their previous experiences of training which was compliance-orientated with no focus on them as an individual or their clients. We do things very differently here at Verve. Yes – I will make sure I keep you and your clients safe, but my role is to understand your business, your client base and your training needs and then work with you on the latter to help you improve and prosper.

Historically, when I have asked advisers what they would like support with, it has been passing more exams, and understanding more complex planning solutions and CPD (more on this to come). However, what I now get asked for, more than anything, is soft skills coaching and development. And my eyes light up. Why? It’s something that I am extremely passionate about and believe can be a real game changer, particularly for those who are relatively inexperienced. Don’t get me wrong, I am delighted that chartered status is the benchmark for the majority of firms that we work with. However, regardless of how qualified you are, it’s pretty worthless if you cannot connect with a client, particularly one who is maybe three times your age with completely different life experiences.

The first fifteen minutes are key to your initial interaction with a client. Gone are the days when the business card was slid over the desk with the opening gambit ‘Tell me about your pension’. You need to gain the client’s trust by building rapport, telling them your back story to gain credibility and then delving deep to really understand your clients so that you have all the facts to make a recommendation. A brilliant technique for gaining soft facts is using a lifetime planner – a one-pager split into 12 boxes where you ask a client about their past, present and future views/experiences on career, property, family and hobbies/pastimes. This is your fact-find; it will provide you with all the soft facts you need to understand your clients and their objectives and will validate the recommendations you make and the service you provide.

A blanket approach to training does not work. I support advisers with sales (not a dirty word) skills, their ability to articulate the value of what they do (a key attribute with consumer duty), business planning and how to widen their professional network and intergenerational approach. With business owners, it could be managing change and transition, root cause analysis, building confidence and relationships, or recruitment and consolidation. The list is endless and evolving.

I mentioned that we get a lot of requests for support with CPD and top of this list is help with achieving the 15 hours of IDD CPD per annum. Our Dextera clients will have seen the new and improved Training Library where we continue to add new content to support all your learning and development requirements. We are also having a morning of IDD CPD on the 6th March where I would be delighted if you could join me and representatives from Royal London, L&G, Scottish Widows and Aviva. 3.5 hours of CPD and a nice precursor for the Budget. What’s not to like?

Paul Sylvester-Evans, Training Manager

The Verve Group