by Tony Vidler
Another week and another bad adviser horror story in the local press…yet, another week and thousands more consumers work with their good adviser privately and attract no headlines. They just make progress quietly towards their savings or investment goals, or protecting their families, or building financial safety nets, and so it goes on…
On the one hand we need bad behaviour and bad advisers highlighted publicly. If we do not confront poor behaviour openly ourselves as an industry and wrestle to correct it when we find it, then there is little hope of the public at large trusting us. On the other it is patently unfair to the thousands of good people with great ethics doing a wonderful job for their clients that they are universally labelled by the bad adviser behaviour when it is highlighted.
At the same time an announcement is made that we shall be creating a new “quality mark” for ourselves. Nobody asked the industry to do so…it has decided to do it all on its lonesome. The educational, ethical and performance standards required to attain this apparent quality mark do not appear to be significantly different to the standards required to be your everyday “good” adviser. So it is does not appar to be aspirational or creating a standard above the general expectations, which makes it little more than a marketing exercise. The financial advice industry is kidding itself if it thinks it can create acronyms, logo’s and self-appointed titles conveying trust and unparalled ethics. Trust can not be claimed by the industry. It cannot be created with a bit of marketing. It must be given vountarily by the consumer. It is earned.
While one story of bad adviser behaviour dominated the headlines this week, I also was working with another good adviser behind the scenes who was under attack from a rogue adviser. The rogue adviser appears to me to be actively creating distrust and poor consumer perception for their own commercial gain. In doing so, the rogue is proactively attacking the reputation of the industry at large – not just one persons business or clientele.
These 3 examples highlight for me that there is a long way to go before the industry can claim to be a trusted profession.
However, I also have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of financial advisers are good people working extremely hard to provide quality advice and help to their clients. The overwhelming majority of financial advisers deserve to be trusted, and in the main they ARE trusted. They all have clients who trust them because they have earned that trust. They’ve earned it engagement by engagement…conversation by conversation….action after action.
The good financial adviser is an unusual combination usually. Part social worker, part confidante, part businessperson with commercial requirements, and part community-member. That adds up to someone who tries to balance making a living with living a good life and being a good person. THAT is to be commended….and should be commended by society at large.
The thing that prevents us being commended by society and prevents elevation to a trusted profession is our unwillingness to confront the aberrant behaviour within the industry ourselves. As long as some parts of the industry protect or promote poor behaviour and questionable ethics the overwhelming majority of good people wil continue to suffer the collective poor image and trust issues.
How we do what we do as financial advisers is often dictated to us…but we should never lose sight of why we do what we do. Different advisers will have different reasons of course, but the many many good advisers I know or have worked with want to do good for people and want the people they work with to have good lives. They are in it for a lot more than making some money.
They are clear in their own minds about the primary reason for doing what they do. It is usually something like this:
Good financial advisers know that their primary role is to positively influence other people to create better outcomes for themselves. Good financial advisers also know that their job is about a heck of a lot more than just talking to clients about their money.
The step we need to take from this though is to recognise that part of being a good adviser is calling out the bad adviser behaviour and doing something about it when we find it. WE have to do that ourselves. Good advisers help manage the collective reputation of all.