OpinionApr 13 2023

Your reputation matters to the whole advice profession

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Your reputation matters to the whole advice profession
FTAdviser's campaign to promote your profession comes with a warning to preserve your reputation.

Professionalism in UK financial services is not a new concept. 

For as many years as I have been able to eat hot dinners, various sectors of the financial services industry have spoken about their distaste for the word 'industry', with its product-centric focus, and their preference for the word 'professionalism'.

FTAdviser's own Promote Your Profession campaign, which has secured support already from adviser trade body Pimfa, the new Consumer Duty Alliance, the Personal Finance Society and dozens of financial planners across the nation, aims to support our readers in that ambition. 

But to achieve that longed-for parity of esteem, one needs to have a reputation of being worthy of that.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a profession in possession of hundreds of thousands of clients must be in need of a good reputation - a reputation of trust, integrity, honesty and respect. 

We are not a hired counsel for the defence. 

This reputation, which takes so long to build up and which is crucial to help bridge the so-called 'advice gap' in Britain, is vital to uphold.

It is the bedrock of achieving that parity of esteem with doctors or solicitors. It must be cared for, and cared about - because reputation is all too easy to knock down. 

This week - after nearly a month of much thought and discussions and conversations internally and externally - FTAdviser was sad to report on an investigation the Chartered Insurance Institute is doing regarding an adviser's personal Facebook posts. 

Whatever one's sense of humour - and we all know it can be subjective - the fact is this sort of news tarnishes the reputation of the industry as a whole. 

We decided to keep the adviser anonymous while the confidential investigation is ongoing, but what if the whistleblower in this case had gone to a national newspaper? Or, as is often the case these days, simply posted screenshots publicly on Twitter or LinkedIn? 

What would the fallout be, not just for that advisory practice and its hundreds of clients, and not just for the adviser and their family, but for the profession as a whole? 

Would the words 'profession' and 'financial advice' still be synonymous? Would someone reading this say the reputation of the wider industry is one of integrity, inclusiveness and honesty?

How can we argue for the promotion of a profession that takes so much care to study and stay up-to-date in order to protect and preserve and grow clients' wealth, when the slightest scratch can tarnish the reputation of the whole body of UK financial advice?

It does seem at odds for us to publish such a story while campaigning for the promotion of the profession.

But while FTAdviser is the 'voice of financial advisers', we are not a hired counsel for the defence. 

We have to be a mirror, reflecting good values and best practice, as well as drawing attention to blemishes.

Only by highlighting such things can we seek to work together to promote the overwhelming majority of our readers and the positive values for which they stand.

Every time something like this appears in the press - as it did in 2022 regarding another financial adviser who penned a tweet - it reminds advisers and paraplanners and everyone working in this profession that reputation matters. What you do and say, even in private, matters. 

It matters not just for you, but for everyone working in financial services. 

Let's work together to promote the profession and improve its reputation, one social media post at a time. 

Have your say!

If you have any ideas about how to support the campaign, and want to share what 'professionalism' means for you, please email damian.fantato@ft.com - he would love to hear from you as we push over the next few months to get your voices heard at the highest level.