To my mind, professionalism was best defined by Robert MC Brown – a unique champion of APES230, amongst other causes.
Robert has said on many occasions that professionalism is acting in a manner that firstly respects the greater good of the general public, then the greater good of our clients, and lastly the greater good of ourselves, the providers.
Firstly serving the greater good of the public ensures our advice isn’t based upon taking advantage of other members of the public. We aren’t dispensing advice whereby others might be disadvantaged. It’s questionable professionalism if we tell the public to buy stocks whilst we instruct our own clients to seek the same stocks, questionable in the same way as insider trading and as some alleged transactions surrounding NSW politicians issuing mining leases.
Another definition of professionalism I like is doing for the client what the client would do for themselves if they were us, knowing what we know and with our experience, networks, and qualifications.
Witness how we turned to the professionals that turned up at recent Australian bush fires and floods – we naturally turn to them. They are part of what makes Australia great. If we had a profession of financial advisers that were as trusted, as focused and as capable, to relieve the financial uncertainties of more Australians with clear intent on the role being played, would we all be better off?
So, back to the original question – Does getting clear definitions of Professionalism for financial services really matter? Or is it just a debate maintained for self-important consultants like me and for consumer groups justifying their existence?
If the medical professional were viewed as a group of backyard witch doctors, would we enjoy the extended years of quality living we have today, compared to the life expectancy of our predecessors?
Do all doctors automatically become professional by just becoming a doctor? No, of course not.
For me, it comes back to the joint alignment and intent between client and her adviser as to the type of relationship they are engaging in and she is paying for.
If an adviser intends to use ‘hidden’ or ‘obscure’ information as part of their value proposition, then that’s not professionalism.
Can better Professionalism in financial services ‘extend the financial lives’ of more Australians? Can it help solve the ‘underinsurance’ problem, the ‘financial illiteracy’ problem?
I believe so.
I’ll endorse anything that accelerates the development of a profession of advisers who get paid to manage and remove the financial complexities that hinder Australians from living their best possible financial lives.
To encourage the development of that profession I’ll support the removal of anything that hinders it and build anything that supports it.
2013 is going to be a great year to build a great advice profession.
Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
About Jim Stackpool
For nearly 30 years Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted to advisory firms across Australia. As founder of Certainty Advice Group, he leads a like-minded team of professional advisory firms seeking to create greater certainty for their clients. As an author, blogger, columnist, and keynote speaker, Jim is regularly called upon for his professional insights into the advice industry. His latest book Seeking Certainty is available now.