Martin Bamford: The line between personal and professional

Martin Bamford

Where do you draw the line between your professional and personal views? During an increasingly heated EU referendum debate, passions ran wild on both sides. Social media no doubt amplifies this level of passion. Places like Twitter become a self-selecting echo chamber, where we hear only the opinions of those who share our worldview. This can limit our exposure to different arguments and confirm the views we already hold about important issues.

Because a big part of the referendum debate related to the consequences for the economy, whether we voted to “remain” or “leave”, our clients asked us for opinions. This can be tricky to manage when, as individuals, we hold personal opinions about what is best for our country.

As a firm of chartered financial planners offering independent financial advice, we have a professional duty to offer impartiality and a balanced view. There were pros and cons associated with both outcomes and in practice nobody could accurately predict what the future held.

In my role as a committee member of our local Chamber of Commerce, I helped to organise two EU referendum debates for local business owners and members of the public. The first was chaired by our MP and the second only a week before the vote. My business sponsored the first event and a local firm of solicitors sponsored the second.

Both debates, as you might expect, got a little heated. The second was slightly more “passionate” than the first, aided by the presence of a large number of campaigners from both sides and its proximity to the vote. They did at least serve their purpose in sharing information and opinions from both sides, which our clients and professional contacts could use to inform their decision.

But what happens when your personal view is so strongly felt that you cannot resist sharing it with the world at large, or even imposing it on your clients?

I am aware that some advisers in our midst are politicians: parliamentary candidates for different parties, local councillors or activists of different political persuasions. In these instances, I imagine clients are aware from day one that discussions might sway towards personal views. But where we do not wear the dual hats of politician and personal financial adviser, do we have a right to offer anything other than a balanced viewpoint?

Our personal opinions, experiences and approach to life in general make a valuable contribution to the delivery of our professional services. As financial planners we need to be the “full package”, as what we do is about so much more than just money matters. Where personal views are not in direct conflict with the house view of the business, or are at least clearly described as personal views only, surely they can only add to the rich mix of what we do.

Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice