Why wealth firms should make mental health a priority

‘No one should struggle alone with their mental health’

It is very easy to say ‘just get on with it’ or pretend you are okay. But this should not be the norm.

As we found during the Covid-19 pandemic – mental health issues are not easily visible, and they can prohibit people from getting on with so-called ‘easy’ day-to-day tasks.

Product provider Embark Group recently found that 43% of advisers are struggling to find motivation, while 40% also said they have greater levels of anxiety.

The firm’s investor confidence barometer also found 70% of advisers surveyed who said they experienced mental health pressures agreed that rising business costs were a contributing factor. Embark said this was followed by increased client expectations (65%), increased workloads (64%), frequent ad hoc changes to tax and savings policy (63%) and regulatory burden (62%).

The pandemic was the foundation for the rise in awareness of mental health – and many industries are doing their part – and this includes the wealth and investment sectors.

Our sister publication International Adviser spoke with the Investment Association, Consumer Duty Alliance and the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) for Mental Health Awareness Week to discuss why wealth firms should be helping their employees and the industry tackle the problem.

‘Not immune’

Especially since the cost-of-living crisis began, financial advisers and wealth managers have continued to play a key role in supporting consumers at key life stages, especially concerning financial empowerment to meet goals and objectives which can often be the main underlying concern or issue affecting mental health.

But Keith Richards, chief executive of professional body Consumer Duty Alliance, said: “Professional advisers and support staff however are not immune and more are feeling the impact of increasing client expectations, ever changing compliance requirements, higher workloads, and increased business costs affecting their mental wellbeing.

“All financial services firms should be alert to staff mental health issues, especially during periods of greater uncertainty, increased workload, and during periods of change. Undertaking periodical welfare assessment and staff surveys can help to spot potential issues, show you care and offer support or signposting to external resources if required.”

Karis Stander, director of culture, talent, and inclusion at the Investment Association, added: “Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand, and it’s important that as an industry we consider wellbeing in the round and create workplaces which support good mental health. Wellbeing is also critical to the long-term health of an organisation.

“When we feel our best, we’re able to perform at our best, enabling people to be more creative and embrace new ideas more easily. Most importantly, we believe that no one should struggle alone with their mental health – as businesses, colleagues, and friends, we can all play a role in supporting each other.”

‘More willing’

Companies in the wealth sector should be looking to make their business a culturally healthy one to make it attractive to many different people.

The industry needs to adapt to changing world and Tracy Vegro, CISI chief executive, believes the sector is starting to take mental health more seriously.

She said: “Since the CISI undertook one of the first surveys on the mental health of those working in the global financial services sector in 2018, we believe this issue has become ever more important for wealth management and financial planning firms and their employees. People in the sector are more willing to discuss their own mental health challenges than ever before.

“We are seeing this across all levels and demographics of the profession, and we captured this on a number of occasions in interviews for our own mental health portal, available for anyone in financial services to access, not just CISI members.

“In terms of what the industry needs to do to tackle mental health and why it is important: the Mental Health First Aider scheme run by MHFA England is a fantastic system for firms to have in place for staff. I am a trained MHFA myself, as my last organisation the legal regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority also placed great importance on mental health alongside physical health. MHFAs offer a point of contact allowing those within firms who may be experiencing ill mental health an opportunity to be heard confidentially.

“Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, whether that be on a professional level at work or on a family or more personal level. These ups and downs manifest for us all as stresses and strains, We all need help to manage these challenges, to recognise the signs of mental overload and to know who and where to turn to in time of need for support. It is very much about supporting staff to bring their whole, authentic selves to work.”

This article first appeared on ESG Clarity’s sister title International Adviser.