Shine A Light On Good Practice

Life at school can be tough.

I was talking with one of the lads that I coach at cricket. He can be annoying, often deliberately winding up the other kids. He’s very bright, has few if any real friends and gets picked on. A lot.

His parents are separated and he lives with his mum. She has been battling breast cancer and is going blind. None of the other kids at school are aware of this.

A group of boys in the year below follow him home from school every day kicking his ankles and calling him names. Every day. He gets very angry but (mainly) manages to ignore them. Inevitably, when people poke and prod and tease you for a reaction, well, sometimes they get a reaction. They wouldn’t do it otherwise.

We talked about what adults these boys might turn into when (if?) they grow up. If I’m being honest, we weren’t particularly kind in our assessment, but I think it made him feel better.

My son (12) is rather quiet when out of the house. He is very good at drawing, and seems to be as polite and considerate as we would hope he would be. Other parents talk of him being a delight to have over (none of this applies when he is at home, of course!).

He was telling me about walking home from school and an elderly lady saw him approaching. She visibly clutched her handbag tighter and scuttled past him. Whether that lady’s impression of young people was garnered from real experience or reading the Daily Mail I don’t know, but it made my son feel rather sad to be judged in this way.

When you get older you can, to an extent, choose who you spend your time with, but not at school. A school is a place where everyone gets thrown together, the quiet kids with the bullies, the sporty with the clever. And everyone is judged by the actions of the idiots.

Much like our profession.

There are plenty of people in our profession that do things I don’t like. There are bullies, dodgy advisers, loud shouty ego driven CEOs. There are people who seem to feel it is their job to poke and tease, to take the opposite position on every issue seemingly for the sake of winding people up. Kicking their ankles.

But there are plenty of really great people doing really great things. There are also advisers who would like to do what they do better but are not sure how to go about doing so.

I agree that bad practice should be named and shamed. I’ve been guilty of such negativity in the past (and can’t promise I won’t again in the future!).

But let’s also make sure we shine a light on good practice. Let’s highlight, loud and proud, the very best of what we do, so that others can see those headlines and can follow the example. Not telling, not showing off, not so much “My way is the best way” as “This has worked for me, you might be interested.”

Down with negativity! It’s easy to moan, to show up what is wrong, but it’s a lot harder to offer a solution. And it’s certainly easy to be in a gang kicking the heels of the ones who are different.

So let’s make 2016 the year of shining a light on good practice, of sharing good ideas, and in that way set an example for others to follow.

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11 thoughts on “Shine A Light On Good Practice

  • As always Chris is on the money. I don’t understand why the Financial Services World is so secretive. The financial media is so quick to judge how bad we are and the terrible things that happen, then why don’t we continually give content about good outcomes and happy clients. Also give your content for free and you will be amazed how much people trust you more. There are a number of really impressive people in the financial services industry in the UK doing great things, so let’s be vocal about it!

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  • Chris is absolutely spot on and chimes with what I’ve been asking for recently. The negativity (ankle kicking) towards Financial Planning from within the profession / industry is unfathomable to me. We don’t all have to operate the same way nor do we have to see the same sweet spot in the value of our services but let’s recognise the general benefits for clients and planners alike.

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  • There’s definitely scope for shouting about all of the good things we (collectively) do in this world of retail financial services. I’m as guilty as anyone about highlighting poor practice when it occurs, and need to shift my focus in the future to highlighting all of the good stuff. Consumers do need warning about the nasty practices which still go on, but it’s far more important for us all to sell the value of what we do on a daily basis and spread that message as far as we can.

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  • For me, this comes down to a couple of things. On the one hand, some people and organisations are better at self-promotion than others. Some are content just to be quietly proficient. It’s often seen as cool or edgy to be negative or snarky, and that in turn very readily spawns a vitriolic viscous circle.

    As practitioners, we’re often the whipping boys for the ills of an increasingly litigious society and – has been said many times – the consequence-free troll farm that is social media. A combination that leads to a very Daily Mail world.

    The solution? Blowed if I know. But I like the tone of this piece, Chris. I wish I was this optimistic.

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  • The industry would probably be in a much better place if it was not so self obsessed.

    We need to accept that we have failed miserably to adapt to a world without commission and to stop blaming the public for not thinking we are worth paying the same large amounts of money that providers paid us for selling products.

    It was only a matter of time before the providers persuaded the regulator to allow them to restore commission as the astonishing volume of business illustrated by the PPI scandal needed to be replaced from somewhere. It is easy to focus on the compensation being paid by the banks but we should not forget the vast amount of business this compensation represented to providers.

    There is a huge market for financial advice waiting for an affordable understandable proposition and we should be doing everything we can to capture this market before it is taken by the likes of Pay Pal or Amazon.

    The desire to create a Dickensian atmosphere around our activities to justify so called ” professional ” levels of remuneration are bound to fail or at very least diminish the contribution we can make to peoples financial lives.

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  • Great piece Chris and totally agree. I’m sure you’ve sparked our collective conscience, as at times we’ve all had a dig at someone, or something we don’t like. I don’t like naming and shaming (anything with the word ‘shame’ in it sounds completely unnecessary). Shaming implies “I know best”, or “I’m morally superior to you”. It’s not a position that allows people to easily engage and to share their point of view. And if we want to unify to some extent and build a true profession then that’s exactly what we need to be doing. I’ve always felt that the disagreements I’ve witnessed, or been part of in financial services were like that scene in The Life of Brian where one group support the People’s Front of Judea while others are passionately anti that group, and support the Judean People’s Front. To an outsider we must appear the same; arguing about minutiae sometimes. There is so much good work going on every day from advisers across the country and across the globe. Their clients know that, because most clients of most advisers never leave. That’s what they think about the advice they receive. So, yes. Let’s get the good news out more often.

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  • It’s relatively easy to identify, discuss and point to bad practice, given it’s usually identified retrospectively. Whilst there’s always some disagreement about it you can objectively measure bad outcomes, usually some time after it’s gone wrong. ‘Good practice’ is harder to pin down. To make something ‘good’ means to distinguish it from basic competence, and invariably that means creating a difference from ‘what most others do right now’. Without intending to do so, it’s impossible to create ‘good’ without accidentally labelling others as ‘bad’. Discussions around fee charging models, Back2Y, commission, robo-advice, risk profiling, passive fund selection etc. all begin life as examples of sharing and discussing good practice, but inevitably become adversarial as those not named as examples of ‘good’ practice feel labelled ‘bad’. You can’t create something without also creating its opposite, maybe that will always lead to antagonism. What do you think of that then, eh?

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  • Thanks for this Chris

    I applaud the sentiment, but am not an optimist. This is based on a few factors. Firstly, to be honest, most of ‘Good Practice’ is either about us running a good model / business. So all about us. Or its that a policy has paid out, and investment process has worked. In which case, ‘So What’, its what is expected of us.

    Secondly, and this is a reflection of the media, when I took a story to a national newspaper, all about a client who was willing to go public and say what had happened – not about me, I add – the paper turned it down, as it was officially against policy to publish anything that showed Advisers in a good light.

    I was flabbergasted and angry, but there was nothing I could do about it

    Years ago I agitated that SOFA / IFP / AIFA should respond to every lie, smear and half truth and put the truth out there. I was told they had better things to do.

    Entirely predictably, we have ended up where we are, with the lies now being the accepted truth – ‘its what everybody knows’.

    So yes, lets stop ‘kicking each other ankles’ (thanks Steve) and acknowledge that 99% (perhaps 98%) of Advisers are trying very hard to deal with fickle regulation, unpredictable governments, unstable markets and emotional advisers, and who have learned that a mindlessly hostile press is just the elevater ‘Musak’ of life. Annoying, frustrating, stupid but something to be endured and ignored

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  • Chris, I like this article as its a refreshing change from some of the petty sniping within the industry that we all see on social media.

    I think there are a number of issues here and it’s a good debate to be having. On one hand it’s great to shine a light on good practice, on the other, who decides what is and isn’t good practice?

    For example, at our firm we are firm believers in the delivery of financial coaching, lifestyle financial planning and use of low cost index and smart beta funds. We may consider that to be best practice. However other firms may firmly believe in focussing on making solid recommendations of pension or investment products and outsourcing investment to active discretionary managers.

    Hopefully we are both doing good jobs for clients, albeit taking a different approach – it may also be that our client base is quite different too.

    One area I don’t think any of us should shy away from, though, is when we at the coal face come across obvious examples of obfuscation, deliberate attempts to mislead and basic mis selling – sadly despite years of regulation and £billions spent, we still come across some shocking stories quite regularly and feel duty bound to highlight them.

    This is quite different to having a different opinion to the best way to deliver good outcomes for all our clients. There is room for all and yes, let’s share best practice and good ideas!

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  • Thanks to all for their opinions – more very welcome! I’d like to make a couple of points in response.

    Alan and Phil wonder what ‘good’ looks like. I don’t think that matters. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What’s important is that it is presented as ‘Here’s something that works for me’, rather than ‘This is what I think and you’re all doing it wrong’.

    I love Brett’s reference to Life of Brian, that’s exactly what we must look like. We just end up creating the sort of impression the old lady had of my son.

    There are lots of variations on how to deliver good practice to clients. Let’s celebrate them and in doing so improve the image for everyone.

    And to anyone about to make a comment underneath an article on the Money Marketing or FT Adviser or NMA sites (or even this site) – just pause for a moment before you hit ‘send’ and ask whether your post is going to promote good practice or kick someone’s heels.

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