Why Ethics Matter

Living in a results oriented world, most of the times driven by ambiguous, undeclared goals we see or hear more and more about banks settling on billions of dollars in law suits after selling toxic assets; bankers hiding hard-copy evidence for clients sheltering billions of dollars from the tax authorities; stock traders facing criminal charges for rigging interest rates. So we ask ourselves: is this the financial system where my money is placed, and should I feel safe about it? Everybody knows the old saying: you have to climb the tree to reach for the apple. But the ‘way’ we choose to climb it is what differentiates the good from the bad.

A new era in banking is just around the corner! The regulatory burden is getting harder for banks. We have FATCA in US and the Europeans are working on their own version of FATCA. Capital requirements are constraining banks to sell non-core assets. Soon banking will ONLY be about banking. I hope to come back on this topic soon.

Why do ethics matter? Because its lack and the self-regulation process failed in the beginning and the results are all of the above rules and regulations. The relationship between an advisor/banker and his clients is first and foremost based on trust. Results and costs come second. Third or even fourth. Trust is something that you have to earn over the course years but something that you can lose in seconds. Bear in mind that advisers have a fiduciary duty towards you. That means their interests should align with the clients’ interest. To better understand your rights I urge you to read the CFA Institute Statement of Investors Right, which is a 10 step easy read, and to ask yourself: is the financial institution to which you entrusted your assets honest with you? Are you paying a fair price for the level of service and products you receive? Are they clear, accurate and use a plain language when communicating with you?

With more and more scandals in the financial industry, we see people driven by their own goals rather than client goals. It has become the new normal! My advice is simple, if you don’t have the time, skills or proper tools to take care of your own investments or do your own research, then look for the help of a professional. Good money managers are still alive! You just have to look for them. And I know that receiving a good piece of advice comes at a price but don’t lose out of sight the importance of enjoying at least the same quality of lifestyle once you retire. Think what’s important for you, your family and your future. Try to assess the manager’s track record: is he known in the industry, is he licensed, can he provide you feed-back from his existing clients? Remember Google is your friend. Good news spread fast but bad news spread even faster. Don’t sacrifice the return of your portfolio for an extra hundred dollars. Sometimes cheap really stands for cheap and nothing more!


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