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Opinion: What counts? Head or heart?

"It's a profession," and "it's complicated" is heard a lot. That's a sort of defensive mechanism against those who say advisers are paid too much. They aren't – they are paid the price that clears the market, and in economic terms, that's efficient.

Wednesday, July 2nd 2008, 9:04AM

by Russell Hutchinson

Everyone worth his (or her) salt in this industry is proud of what they do. That includes having some pride in the expertise you need to practice. Obviously, you don't stand around at parties saying "my job is easy, any fool could do it". This is partly because it would be bad marketing, but mainly because it's true.

So it's complicated. But not that complicated. Everyone reckons that it's a "profession". Just like being an accountant or lawyer. I phoned some of these people and asked them how much continuing education they do.

"About 10 hours compulsory a year," said the accountants, "plus about another ten hours informal stuff".

"There's no formal commitment of hours for continuing education," said the lawyer. "If we're no good, word gets around." Now there's a revealing comment. Maybe they don't count their conferences.

Except, by way of comparison, I read recently that one broker said he spend three to four hours a day reading product material and industry news because it's so complicated. That's the better part of 90 days a year. Heart surgeons don't do this. It's probably two days of training for every case written at industry averages. Maybe the dropouts from Insurance College have to go and do something wimpy like nuclear science. Let's get real. If you're doing this it's because you want to, not because you have to.

The truth is, being a really good risk adviser takes courage and brains. The wilting flower with a brain the size of a planet will write a hell of a lot less business than the determined plodder.

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