25th September 2012
Trust is a subject that we'll be addressing at the IFP's Annual conference 1-3 October but, more importantly, it's a topic that should be properly discussed in everyone's boardroom.
A compelling suggestion came out of the Question of Trust's campaign work over the summer. There is a need and an opportunity to help businesses install and measure a code of conduct. Many businesses will have a code of conduct and a set of values but few firms can evidence that its management, employees and customers are aligned behind such a code.
There have been miles of column inches written about the failings of the banks in this particular area recently. They point to a code of conduct and other corporate documents which exist because they have to or that have been created as a result of expensive "away days" or consultant input. The problem is that compliance alone does not mean doing the right thing. As has been proved in many cases some of these businesses haven't been handling their compliance very well.
There can't be many more chances left for financial services businesses to get this right. Consumer trust is now essential if we are to engage more effectively with the challenges ahead. Greater onus is being placed on the consumer to prepare for their uncertain financial futures. Most will still need some professional help to provide context or signposts and the supplier of these must be trusted. Social media and the internet can be a powerful ally or saboteur of these policies and so maximum attention needs to be given to a co-ordinated strategy that people can willingly and confidently buy into.
It is interesting to note the approaches of Antony Jenkins, the new CEO of Barclays and Antonio Horta – Osorio, the CEO of Lloyds. Antony talks about the customer as distinct from a targeted return on capital and Antonio talks of making banking boring again. This is welcome rhetoric but something tangible and consistent needs to emerge. Relationships with the customer in Financial Planning are long term and yet many firms' strategies are short term and dependent on the tenure of the CEO which sometimes isn't very long.
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