Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” 
When I think of integrity, I define it as doing the right thing when no one is looking.
In the Financial Services industry integrity should be standard. That is not always the case. There are countless stories of people who have trusted someone to assist them with their finances only to find out that the person they trusted was not acting in a way that was best for them.
We have all heard about the criminal cases in which a Financial Services provider knowingly and intentionally defrauded clients out of millions of dollars (think Bernie Madoff). While these stories grab our attention due to the large numbers of people affected and the large dollar amounts associated, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
There are far more stories of Advisors who failed to serve their clients with integrity in smaller, less obvious ways. They do not fully understand the products that they are recommending or the needs of the clients that they are serving so they do not recommend the right products for their clients. They fail to properly research the market. They recommend high commission products that will give them the biggest payout even if it is not the best option for the client.
In my practice, integrity looks something like this:
- Listening is the most important part of my job. I do not know what a client wants or needs unless I ask them good questions and then listen to the answers. Once I have listened, I can have a much better idea of who they are and what they need so I can offer the products and services that will best suit them and their needs.
- Listening to clients is not something that I just do once, I regularly meet with my clients and keep the lines of communication open. Rarely do the needs of the client stay the same year after year. When the client’s needs change, my recommendations also change. I am always happy to take the time to make these adjustments that are in the best interest of my clients. I believe it is the right thing to do.
- As a fee based advisor, I do not get paid on commissions so high commission products are not a motivator for me.
- The best option for the client is the best option for me. If a client has debt, I might recommend that the client use assets from their investment portfolio to pay off the debt even if it means that ultimately, I will get paid less because the account value has dropped.
- Is there a similar product at a lower cost? Whatever investment product I recommend to my clients, I want to be sure that it is the best product that I can find to suit my clients’ needs at the lowest cost. I take the time to research multiple options and constantly look for lower cost options.
- Am I the right Advisor for this client? There are as many types of advisors as there are investors. When a prospect or a current client comes to me and asks for investment help that does not align with my abilities and my way of doing business, I respectfully suggest that they find another Advisor. It would be wrong of me to do business with someone who would ultimately be unsatisfied with the way I manage their money.
I am far from perfect and I have made my fair share of mistakes but, I do my best to give advice to my clients that is honest and forthcoming. I also try to only recommend products that are in the best interest of my clients. When making decisions about the investment advice that I will give it can be narrowed down to two questions:
- If this client were a family member or close friend, would my advice be the same?
- If my mom heard about it, would she be proud of me?
An advisor with integrity should be able to answer both of these questions in the affirmative.
While I have met my fair share of clients who previously worked with Financial Professionals who lacked integrity, I have also had the privilege of meeting many Advisors who exercise a high level of integrity in their businesses and I am proud to have them as peers.
Is your Financial Advisor someone who will do the right thing when no one is looking?
If you would like someone to take a second look at your financial portfolio and you would like a second opinion about your investment strategy, give us a call and we would be happy to sit down with you and give you our professional opinion.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
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