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Getting to Know: Trevor Slater

Trevor Slater says advisers should try not to overreact when they get a complaint.

Friday, February 2nd 2018, 12:00PM

by Susan Edmunds

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Trevor Slater. I am the Client Director of Financial Dispute Resolution Service, an approved dispute resolution scheme for financial service providers in New Zealand. As Client Director, I manage the scheme and lead a team of facilitators, conciliators, and adjudicators who are experts in resolving complaints in the finance sector. I have a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution and have been in financial dispute resolution since 1998.

How did you get into the industry?

I first got into the financial industry in the 80s as a collector agent for AMP insurance. I then did a number of roles before returning to the financial industry as a senior investigator with the internal fraud team at AMP. I moved from fraud investigation into life and disability claims management and customer relations and then dispute resolution. During this period I obtained Senior Associate level with the Australian and New Zealand Institute of insurance and Finance.

If there is one thing you would like to change about the financial advice industry, what would it be?   
I would encourage advisers to talk more about the value of financial advice. Unfortunately, the financial advice industry is too often seen by consumers as simply insurance selling. However, there are so many great stories of how financial advice have helped people in their time of need through good insurance cover as well as enjoying a comfortable retirement from wise investing. These stories are not talked about enough.

What’s the best advice you have ever received? 

I’ve been fortunate to receive many pieces of good advice. I think the one that sticks in my mind the most is when, as a young man, my dad said to me to always look for the good in people.

What could financial advisers learn from other industries?

I think they could learn that to be a professional, you need to act professionally. What I mean by this is that you put your self-interest to one side even when you’re having a bad day and give good advice, because people need it.

Do financial advisers handle complaints well?

Generally speaking yes they handle them well, once they identify that they have a complaint. The challenge for most advisers is to not overreact when they receive a complaint, which as human beings can be hard at times to do. I often say take a breath, think about what your client is saying and don’t take it personally. And remember, your dispute resolution scheme is there for you if you need a little bit of extra support.

What could they do to improve?

I think the key is to have a better understanding of what a complaint is. There is a clear definition in the New Zealand Standard for complaint handling and also in the Code.

What do you think has been good about regulation, what could be better?

The requirement for all financial service providers, who provide a service to retail clients, to be a member of an approved dispute resolution scheme is a very good thing. What could be better? I think we could have more financial advisers or financial service providers that have worked in the industry drafting the legislation and regulation.

What role do you see for adviser associations under the new rules?

To be a single voice for the financial advice industry, to provide a standard of professionalism that advisers should aspire to and to promote the value of financial advice.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

As a dispute resolution practitioner, the most rewarding part of my work is being able to bring two parties together who have been in conflict for a long time, help them reach an agreement and move forward with their lives. The other rewarding part of my career has been meeting so many fantastic people in the financial advice industry.

What’s the biggest threat to financial advisers?

I think there are two threats to the financial advice industry. One is the damage done by a small minority of advisers who are in the business for the wrong reasons and do not provide good advice. The second is the lack of promotion around the value that financial advisers bring to the community.

What do you wish the public knew about financial advisers?

That good financial advisers are not insurance salesmen, but are professionals who provide sound financial advice that provides protection and peace of mind for the future.

What would get more people interested in insurance?

To hear the stories of how financial advice has helped people in their time of need. In the industry, we all know those stories about how a claim payment has made a substantial difference to a person’s life. But these stories are rarely known outside of the industry.

Are you a KiwiSaver member?

Yes of course. I also have private superannuation.

If so, what’s your investment strategy?

It’s a balance strategy based on the fact my wife is very conservative and I’m very speculative!

Outside of work, what do you do?  

Mostly I enjoy spending time with family and friends now that we have finished renovating our third property. I also have a boat that I’m trying to spend more time on.

What would you say if one of your kids told you they wanted to be a financial adviser?

Fantastic. I think we need more young people in the financial advice industry.

What’s one thing people may be surprised to know about you?

I was a New South Wales police officer for 10 years and a blood alcohol expert.

If you weren’t in this job what would you be doing?

Probably practising my trade as a carpenter and cabinetmaker. Or just sitting on our veranda looking at the beach in Paekakariki enjoying a cold glass of Guinness.

Tags: Getting to Know

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