HOLLYWOOD, FLA. – New skills and new training are necessary for advisors to succeed in today’s market, but banks and broker-dealers have not made it a top priority.

These deficiencies were topics of discussion the first day at the Bank Insurance and Securities Association conference here this week when a panel session called “Navigating the New Retirement Health Care Paradigm” took an interesting turn into a discussion of whether banks and broker-dealers have committed to training advisors properly to give the best advice possible on Medicare and Social Security. Further, the firms may be doing themselves a disservice in their hesitance.

An audience member mentioned that everyone is worried about legal liability, and that fear may be preventing firms from fully embracing holistic retirement advice. If an advisor recommends that a client wait until 67 or 70 to file for Social Security, and then the client dies at 62, the advisor may be sued by the family. So the audience member questioned whether firms are headed for more trouble by merely dabbling in this type of retirement advice instead of making it a top priority.

Another audience member agreed, but said that making it a top priority is very expensive.

Peter Stahl, president of Bedrock Business Results, a training and consulting firm and a panelist in the session, said that firms recognize the importance of health care advice, but he hasn’t seen any of them step up and dedicate the necessary resources to make a major push into this area.

A major push by firms would require more focus on psychology in order to deal with clients on a deeper level. This would be a new area for most advisors, who have been trained on more rigid concepts like diversification and volatility. But that day is coming. “We need to focus less on the statistics so much and put more focus on psychology” Stahl said.

Kevin McGarry, another of the panelists and a director at Nationwide, said that they are currently working on research about the psychological aspects of financial planning.

When it comes to another major life expense, long-term care, many family members simply cannot bring themselves to broach the subject and they want the advisor to “be the bad guy,” said author Barbara McVicker, the third panelist in the session.

All of this came just before a general session where BISA executive director Jim McNeil highlighted the human aspect of advising. McNeil said that one of the themes of the conference, and the industry, is the “the psyche of today’s investor.”

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