FASEA’s Code of Ethics commences 1 January 2020 and is underpinned by five (5) values – this is a guide to Fairness.
Clients want to know if you will provide them with advice that has been objectively formulated from available options, based on a clear understanding of their needs, and delivered in a competent manner. Can I count on you to thoroughly investigate, evaluate and diagnose my needs and only deliver the right services if you are competent to do so?
Our definition of fairness is that it is the presence of a state of impartiality (without bias) when recommending financial products and services arising from a thorough investigation and proper identification of client needs, delivered in a competent manner.
From FASEA’S perspective:
“Acting to demonstrate, realise and promote the value of fairness requires that you bring professional objectivity to the task of engaging clients professionally, and when recommending financial products and professional services. It requires you to properly investigate, evaluate and diagnose a client’s need for professional services, to self-reflect on the limits of your professional competency and on your capacity to deliver or access the necessary professional services required in the engagement in a manner that benefits your client.
It requires your objective assessment of your own services (or your firm’s) and whether you can bring value to your client. It requires understanding your personal biases, and it may require you to act to mitigate the threat of your own or your client’s unconscious biases to your client’s decision making. Being fair requires that you look beyond your own interests and consider how others may judge or perceive your actions. Would your conduct stand public scrutiny by your professional peers and by the community?”
You will note that the value of fairness is also linked to the values of competence and honesty.
In our research, we have identified that fairness is closely related to the concept of equity (the extent to which the distribution of outcomes is just and fair) which is positively correlated with a reduction in conflict, together with improved trust and satisfaction.
SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS
Start a checklist
Here are some suggestions about what questions to include on your checklist.
- Did I act honestly, efficiently and fairly when recommending all advice and products to my client?
- Did I provide the required attention, skills and time to the client throughout the advice process?
- Did I treat my client in a respectful and professional manner at all times?
Here are a few practical actions you could consider.
- Consider the scope of your licensee’s Approved Product List (APL) to ensure its breadth is sufficient to allow you to act with fairness.
- Only recommend financial products and professional services that are clearly required in order to meet the client’s needs and that you can deliver in a competent manner.
- Treat your clients the way you would like to be treated. Do no harm.
- Be honest in your assessment of your competencies when deciding if you are well-positioned to perform your professional obligations to your client.
Disclaimer This article was issued in December 2019 and is point in time content based on the Financial Planners and Advisers Code of Ethics 2019 Legislative Determination, the accompanying Explanatory Statement and Guidance, together with proprietary research. It does not constitute legal advice. We encourgae you to seek your own professional advice on how the FASEA Code of Ethics may apply to you. Suggestions in this article are not exhaustive and are not intended to be binding on the author or related entities. Further guidance may be released by FASEA and may change the suggestions within this point in time article.