To me, continuing personal and professional development has always meant more than exams and online tests.
It's about taking lessons learnt and applying them in real life. Technical abilities mean little in financial services without a commitment to good behaviour.
This means having integrity, being honest and making an over-riding commitment to do the right thing for our colleagues and our clients.
Badly mangling a line from one of my favourite Jack Nicholson films, A Few Good Men: “Honour, code, loyalty. This is the backbone by which we live.”
Or at least, it should be!
Doing what has to be done properly, each and every time (and especially when no-one else is watching), should come naturally to us as professionals.
We have a deep and crucial relationship with our clients and their financial well-being.
Even with no legal fiduciary requirements, we should continually strive to meet these standards.
This isn't the kind of thing that should be up to the regulator anyway. It should come from within, in line with our own values and moral compass.
Building a movement
I've thought a lot about this over the years, but it was brought back into sharp focus at the recent ‘Are You In?’ conference held in London and organised by Anna Sofat of Addidi Wealth.
Her idea is to change the culture of wealth by creating a movement to encourage people to live the values they want to see within financial services.
To build on this, she put on a great event earlier this month featuring thought-provoking speakers who dared us to address the challenges in our sector and come together to improve financial services, both in terms its internal behaviours and its external reputation.
By making pledges from a list of five, she hopes we can all genuinely commit to doing more collectively.
It's now a well-established principle that masses of small improvements can add up to a huge difference. We see this across business, education, sport and the military and it's a principle I wholeheartedly agree with.
The pledges are around:
- committing to living the changes we wish to see at work;
- committing to helping others and passing it on;
- being a beacon for good practice and behaviour in our industry;
- speaking up for people who are not being seen or heard; and
- being committed to being authentic at work.
I initially chose the pledge of helping others and passing it on, because that is what Octo is all about. But I've since decided to commit to the others also.
High standards are hard to live up to - that's why they're called high standards.
They span the smallest interactions with colleagues to the big issues with clients around transparency, professionalism and being truly empathetic.
Meeting these kinds of high standards takes constant self-awareness and self-reflection.
It means not putting up with passive-aggressive emails from team mates, thinking before we speak or act and actively speaking up for those who may be being marginalised.
Of course, it also requires a great deal of reflection on our business models.
For example, is what we are doing about our clients or more about ourselves?
The list of what it means to have high standards is endless, and will differ for each and every one of us. Yet the commitment to good results should be consistent.
Ultimately, it's about being the best we can possibly be in how we operate within our financial services ecosystem.
I think what Anna is doing is incredibly brave. She has conceived and created a fledging movement, and she has put her name to it. I hope it's a movement we can all get behind, and at the very least I hope we can support the thinking behind it.
For me, it comes down to being braver, bolder, and more honest and engaged in delivering better outcomes for our clients and our team mates. Not expecting others to do the hard work and expecting to reap the benefits.
It is not hiding behind inaction or apathy.
I believe that much of the behaviour Anna is looking to encourage is already here.
I know many advisers who already live by the values outlined above, and run incredibly impressive businesses with their colleagues and clients at the heart of everything they do.
However, we do tend to mix with those like us and the image of advice and financial services more generally is not universally good.
We all know this, and we can all recount examples of bad behaviour we have seen over the years and that we know is still going on.
Let’s work harder to call these miscreants out - they give us all a bad name.
Working together really could bring better outcomes and Anna is to be commended for putting in such a huge effort into getting this underway.
Are you in?