Butsi Tladi, FIA president
A HUMAN LINK IN A DIGITAL WORLD
The financial intermediaries, who make up our FIA membership, provide a much-needed human link in an increasingly digitalised world. Our human touch is an important feature of the financial advice process, and we should do whatever possible to remind our clients that there is a person behind the contract, policy wording and financial transactions.
The pandemic, which has dominated our business interactions during 2020 and 2021, has highlighted the human and technological aspects of advice giving. On the human side, we had to show compassion and empathy to assist our clients with a range of pandemic- related hardships. As for technology, we had to get used to conducting business in complex ways, leveraging the automation benefits of digital platforms and processes to offer better customer service, at scale.
Many FIA members have since learned that moving into the realm of digital advice platforms, e-signatures and Zoom meetings does not signal an end to the all-important adviser / client relationship. Instead, it represents the natural evolution of moving human assurance and support into the virtual world.
Considering this, you should not be surprised that a key FIA objective for 2022 is to work towards a new social contract that will see government, intermediaries, regulators and product providers acting with purpose to ensure impeccable financial advice and financial outcomes for the end-consumer.
This new social contract can only succeed if the industry makes simplicity central to our advice processes, product design and regulation.
FIA advisory practices will play their part in achieving this goal by collaborating within the FIA structures and improving how we communicate with our peers and, especially, our clients. We can’t risk sacrificing consumer outcomes while we get caught up in petty struggles over industry jargon and regulatory interventions.
This does not mean the FIA will stand back from the regulatory process. We will continue to work tirelessly to carve out a sustainable regulatory framework, bearing in mind that sustainable advisory practices are integral to sustainable outcomes for financial consumers.
There will be many tough regulatory discussions taking place in the new year. And my hope for 2022, is that all sides to these discussion are blessed with the bravery, vulnerability and wisdom to deliver regulatory mechanisms that are appropriate for South Africa’s unique socioeconomic landscape. We cannot be afraid of abandoning ill-fitting policy and returning to the drawing board to come up with something that is a better fit.
The good news is that FIA members are entrepreneurs at heart and more than competent at finding solutions to the many challenges that we face. It is this solutions- focused mindset that makes intermediaries such a critical component of the broader financial services sector. I am confident that our members will be central in guiding the industry into the uncharted territory that lies ahead. The future is about boldness and embracing the new and unexpected. My wish for the new year is that FIA members embrace change, resist swimming against the tide and leverage the technology tailwinds to grow your businesses. And my challenge to each of you is to attract, develop and retain talent as you strive for this growth.