In a business context, it is quite often not clear what the ultimate objective of our activities should be. Of course, there are targets, business plans, corporate objectives, mission statements, etc, but, clearly, when it comes to providing a service to others, we cannot solely consider how much money can be earned from it. It is necessary to establish clear standards of behaviour.
Of course, one of the ways in which matters of this kind are dealt with is through regulation but regulatory rulebooks quite often are a challenge to the ingenious to find loopholes.
What we need is professional people who have their own standards of behaviour which come from within themselves rather than being imposed from without. But we cannot leave that entirely to personal decision. The work which has gone on through many sectors, often involving the Office of Fair Trading, to draw up codes of practice or conduct is a recognition of the need for guidelines to ensure consistency of approach.
This new code is the result of widespread consultation. It spells out very clearly the standards which are expected of CII members which, of course, includes members of the Personal Finance Society as well as all other faculties and societies in the CII Group.
Complaints which are brought to the CII and the professional standards board in relation to the new code will be pursued vigorously. But that is not enough. What we need is for all practitioners in the sector, either individuals or firms, to enshrine at the heart of their daily behaviour standards set out in the code.
We need professional ethics and conduct to be a constant talking point throughout the sector. It is time to set aside traditional cynicism and to claim a new standing which can only be validated by our own daily practice.
John Ellis is public affairs director at the LIA