Stress can be a hazard in any occupation and financial services is no exception. Nicola Brittain asks advisers about their stress triggers and how they manage them.
Hard work is enjoyable but what happens when the work becomes too much or too complicated? It can lead to stress. Even Barclays big cheese Hector Sants was vulnerable: he resigned as head of compliance for the bank in November citing stress as the reason.
And the condition is widespread. Stress was responsible for more than 40% of workplace illness in 2012, according to a report in The Guardian.
So what are the big stress triggers for financial advisers and how do they manage them to ensure they continue to be as productive as possible? We asked five advisers for their experiences.
Five advisers share their stress triggers
Pete Matthew, managing director, Jacksons Wealth Management
“Mountains of emails”
Email has caused me quite a lot of stress in the past. I get about 100 messages a day, which is fairly normal for advisers, but I always found them distracting. I recently read a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen, which has helped me manage the problem.
I now deal with emails first thing in the morning, at lunchtime and after work. I also use an iPhone app called Mailbox, which is really helpful when managing them: it allows you to ‘do’, ’delegate’ or ‘defer’ in one swipe. I also make sure to unsubscribe from emails I do not want to receive.
Alan Lakey, senior partner, Highclere Financial Services
“The RMAR paperwork”
I find the Gabriel returns extremely stressful. I have been working on them for the past four weeks for an hour at a time. Just now, I put data into 40 fields in Section K (adviser charging) and it returned 15 red error messages. Similarly, much of what I put in has to be an approximation.
It asks what percentage of my work relates to investment but this is difficult to work out when money comes from renewal commission. I charge £150 an hour, which means I have spent about £2,000 on completing these returns already. I manage the stress it causes by leaving the forms and coming back to them a day or two later when I can think about them with a clearer head.
Philip Stevenson, co-director, ARK Financial Planning
“Lack of clarity from the FCA”
I also find the Gabriel returns stressful; some of the forms are almost impossible to fill in. When I call and ask the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for clarity, its spokespeople tell me to answer with my best guess. The message here is that the information is not important. Everyone will be inputting information according to their own criteria. The FCA employs serious people to answer the phone and conversations with them can be very tense. I often feel that they are not as helpful as they should be. There is not really anything I can to do to reduce the stress this causes except to plough on and fill in the forms as best I can.
Ruth Whitehead, managing director, Ruth Whitehead Associates
“Ensuring my employees are paid”
I run my own company and the part of my job I find the most stressful – and always have – is ensuring the cash flow remains high enough to pay my four employees. I have never failed to do so in 20 years but marrying irregular income with regular outgoings remains a challenge. The turnover has gone up and the business has grown but I still worry about this, particularly if there is a period when the phones are quiet. I feel responsible. I manage this stress by working very hard. People that run their own business tend to be very driven and I am no exception.
Helen KanOlik, rirector, HelenK Financial Advice
“Compliance notes on reports”
I am currently an appointed representative with Financial Network and find it stressful when a compliance officer returns a client file with comments that need to be addressed. These comments tend to be made when I have not written enough notes.
I normally have the information recorded so it is not actually that difficult to respond; however, I suppose the stress comes from feeling that the compliance officer thinks my work is not good enough. I have to respond to them to get the case signed off. It is not that I disagree with what they are saying – the comments are normally important and will cover my back – but I can’t help but take it personally. I manage these stresses by responding as quickly as possible.
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