GUEST COLUMNIST – KATRINA SHANKS
As Covid-19 continues to test the resilience of our health sector – as well as our collective emotional and financial strength – Financial Advice NZ CEO Katrina Shanks says insurance advisers play a key role in supporting New Zealanders’ peace of mind.
While the valued support of financial advisers has always been there for clients, it has become even more apparent during this pandemic when it comes to what quality advice can bring to the table.
With mental wellbeing being one of those benefits, and with Mental Health Awareness Week starting on 27 September, I’d like to acknowledge the outstanding job that our insurance advisers are doing across the country. I know that many are going above and beyond for their clients – sometimes overlooking their own wellbeing in the process.
And it’s with all this in mind that I’d like to talk about the many ways that insurance advisers make a difference to Kiwis’ lives, in times of need and uncertainty.
Ever since Covid-19 made its first appearance, it has put a ‘magnifying glass’ on people’s financial and personal vulnerability. According to global research, more people are experiencing a so-called ‘Covid stress syndrome’ – a complex network of mental health reactions that encompass socioeconomic concerns and emotional responses.
While it’s true that New Zealand has largely enjoyed a relative low impact of Covid-19, the return of restrictions in August was a powerful reminder that normalcy is still a long way off. Now, as Kiwis learn to cope with uncertainty, it’s important for advisers to identify customer vulnerability, and support vulnerable clients throughout the advice process.
The essential thing to note here is that everyone is vulnerable at times, whether due to sudden challenges such as financial hardship and redundancy, traumatic events, or serious and chronic health issues. Through attentive customer service, flexible and timely support, and clear communication, advisers can help minimise clients’ distress and build financial and emotional resilience.
Holistic wellbeing support
Both before the pandemic, and certainly as a result of it, mental health issues have become increasingly recognised and more openly discussed.
The insurance industry, and advisers, play an important role in making our society more resilient. In recent years, many health and life insurers have strengthened their services focused on mental wellness.
Instead of just providing support at the claims stage, an increasing number of plans now include an array of health and wellbeing solutions, designed to help Kiwis take care of their mental health in a holistic manner.
The focus is shifting from providing cover to offering support when people are well, in the form of health risk mitigation and early intervention. And being the first point of contact between the client and the insurer, insurance advisers are instrumental in leveraging change. Not only are they there for clients’ questions, but they are also committed to educating clients on their options for physical and mental wellbeing.
At the heart of quality insurance advice is more than just financial protection – it’s the clients’ overall health and wellness.
Sensitive subjects and disclosure
As we know, full disclosure is key to smooth client outcomes. But when it comes to mental health disclosures, the high degree of confidentiality involved can be a barrier, as it requires people to step out of their comfort zone.
This is why a dedicated relationship with an adviser is so important. Clients can feel confident in the application process, knowing that their sensitive information is in trusted hands. And by understanding clients’ unique needs in detail, advisers are able to recommend providers and plans appropriate for their circumstances – so clients can rest assured in the knowledge that their situation has been taken into account.
Advisers’ wellbeing is essential
In a world that feels increasingly beyond our control, ‘sense-makers’ such as financial advisers are there to help us regain our confidence foothold.
At the same time, as I said in the past, it’s important that advisers don’t overlook their own wellbeing. According to Australian research, most financial advisers (73%) experienced high levels of work-related burnout since the pandemic started, with many also reporting poor sleep and some level of depression.
At Financial Advice NZ, we’re committed to making sure that advisers feel valued and supported in their role, and that their quality of life is as good as can be.
We welcome financial advisers to visit our support page to learn more about our initiatives in this space.
Also, for those who are attending our national conference in November, we will have a few sessions on ‘tools for you’, designed to provide you with additional skills and refresh some of the skills you already have.