OpinionApr 27 2023

'It's good to talk - even if we don't agree'

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'It's good to talk - even if we don't agree'
How to use the power of words to improve professionalism across UK financial services.

FTAdviser always loves to hear from its readers. 

Over the past couple of weeks, team FTA has been thrilled by the response to our letter-writing campaign as part of our Promote Your Profession initiative.

It has been encouraging to read your tweets and letters to the editor in response to FTAdviser's Promote Your Profession campaign - please do keep up the pressure.

We've had several readers share their stories so far and it is great to see so many people, old and young, roll up their sleeves and work together to help the public give you that parity of esteem you deserve. 

To write your own letter to your local MP, feel free to take and adapt this template and please let us know how you get on.

We want to create a table to show which of our representatives in Parliament care about the financial advice profession, the need for fair and proportional regulation, and who understand the importance of financial education.

Reputation and right to privacy

We also like to hear from advisers where you don't agree with what we our our commentators say.

It's essential for freedom of expression and one such case is an adviser who wrote in to urge us to recognise there are valid arguments to make about not tarring the whole profession with one brush. 

In response to my previous op-ed, ‘Your reputation matters to the whole profession’, reader Neil Liversidge of West Riding Personal Financial Services, wrote a letter to the editor.

He wrote: "The casual observer might conclude that we advisers rampage around with no care whatsoever for our personal reputations, or that of the profession as a whole, despite a wealth of evidence the precise opposite is the case.

"We should draw a distinction between actions that genuinely affect the entire profession, and those that merely have the potential to affect the reputation of the individual concerned. 

"As with most things in life though, the difficulty is where to draw the lines between the public, the private and the professional parts of our lives, and to agree what is and is not acceptable where those areas intersect."

There's a strong case for freedom of speech.

This is the difficulty - often there are intersectionalities or nuances that we, who are 'in' the world of financial services, may not pick up on because we have implicit assumptions about the way most of us 'live and move and have our being'.

Most of us are aware of how much things have changed in the past 20 years and know that we have collectively come a long way.

This could mean we feel relaxed or defensive about suggestions that we might not have come far enough.

However, an external person - a potential client - may be far more aware of such nuances than we are. They may be far more sensitive to those intersectionalities, whether through past contact or lived experience. 

They don't see how far we have come as a body of professionals or all the great work you do to help clients and communities - they can only see things through their lens.

And if they see any suggestion of micro-aggression or close-to-the-bone banter, this can be a big, red flag to them. 

So do keep telling FTAdviser about the great community work you do - we want to promote this widely! 

A fine balance

There's a strong case for freedom of speech, and the right of the individual to hold sincere, private views, without being 'shopped' for it. 

There is equally a strong case for calling out those who hide behind free speech and privacy to write and post things that the reasonable viewer/reader would deem as racist or bullying.

While it might not tarnish the whole profession, it can certainly turn that person away from seeking advice - and their friends and family.

Do keep telling FTAdviser about the great community work you do - we want to promote this widely.

When women considering a career in finance read comments that suggest we're useless in senior management positions, is this going to help bring new talent into the profession, or put people off? 

At a time when millions need help with their finances, and the whole financial services industry needs more talent in the pipeline, could what we post be helpful or a hindrance? 

With that in mind, I want to give those of you who made it to the end of this diatribe a little bit of news.

In the month to come, we will be bringing back commenting. So keep an eye out - and get ready to share your thoughts with us.

We hope to provide the right balance of freedom of speech and respect for our community, and to have fun engaging together.

I always love to hear from you, whether you agree with me or not.

So, while we wait for the tech team to turn that commenting switch on, here's my email: simoney.kyriakou@ft.com