Compensation advice needs compassion, brevity

28-Sep-2016

By Sarah Kendell

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Compassion, legal knowledge and the ability to explain complex concepts in simple language were key skills needed to work as an adviser within Australia’s approximately $3 billion private compensation trust market, according to a leading practitioner in the space.

Speaking to financialobserver, Aeran principal Jane Campbell said there was “no room for bad choices” when servicing the needs of compensation trust clients, who were investing to cover their lifelong care needs as a result of catastrophic injury.

“If an average person makes bad decisions about their money, it means they have to keep working harder and longer, but if you don’t have that opportunity, there is little room for making bad decisions,” Campbell said.

“Whereas all of us would benefit from getting financial advice, those who are injured and need compensation need advice more than anyone.”

She said a “great compassion for people” was an essential skill for advisers looking to specialise in compensation trust work as servicing the client was as much about developing a personal rapport as it was about technical skills.

“When I meet new clients I feel an enormous admiration for their ability to cope with this sort of adversity and I’m inspired by them such that I really want to do everything I can to help them,” she said.

“I did have an experience where I moved away from this sort of work and did high net worth investing advice and I didn’t find it as fulfilling – I felt if I was meeting with a high net worth individual, then overall their situation is pretty good and they didn’t need my help as much as these families under stress.”

While a legal background was not a must for advisers working with compensation clients, a strong network of lawyers as referral partners was beneficial in order for advisers to understand the time pressures they and their clients were often working under, she noted.

“One of the issues is that lawyers in this area of the market are always flat out and under pressure, so you need to understand the importance of acting quickly and being responsive,” she said.

“That’s a different environment to operate in if you compare someone retiring who comes to you for advice to a lawyer who says ‘I need these numbers by tomorrow’.”

As the families involved in compensation settlements often had no experience with financial terms, not getting too technical was also a key consideration, she added.

“It comes back to the point of whether you can help to put them at ease by not talking in jargon – you need to not be condescending, just make it clear and in plain English,” she said.

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