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Robert Reid: Don’t let social media comments diminish our profession

Inappropriate comments on social media reflect badly on the advice profession as a whole, not only the individuals who make them.

Having served as chairman of the Society of Financial Advisers and later as Personal Finance Society president, followed by various other posts in the Chartered Insurance Institute, I have attended many functions over the years.

The temptation to take my quota of the free wine has been countered by my wish to remain professional at all times; it would be unhelpful at best to be ‘worse-for-wear’ when representing our professional body. In fact, it would be diametrically opposed to raising tested levels of competence, which I always saw as the gateway to us becoming the profession that many have strived to create.

Recent comments on social media could jeopardise that quest, especially those posted on a story about FCA executive director of supervision for wholesale and specialist investment Megan Butler being patronised by a senior banker. The story highlighted that in some ways we have moved on a lot in diversity and inclusion, but in others we just haven’t progressed at all.

When recruiting people, you look for the best person for the job. Their gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity are irrelevant. What I want is someone who is ethical, puts the effort in and has a real talent that can make a difference. That should be the core of all recruitment policy. All too often it is not.

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Several comments that followed said article were inappropriate – reflecting badly on the individuals that made them and on the profession as a whole. One comment triggered a mini Twitter war as various people responded to its poster. If this had been someone new to our sector, then perhaps they would have been oblivious to our quest to be fully recognised as professionals. But they were not, nor were they inexperienced as a press commentator or in dealings with the media.

We all have to be prepared to call others, and ourselves, to account

If this were the only individual guilty of this type of comment and response, I’d regard it as an unfortunate episode – but it’s not. We all have to recognise that certain remarks are unacceptable on a public forum, on the assumption that we seek to be seen as a profession by the public as a whole.

That means we have all got to step up to the plate – that includes publications, trade bodies, professional bodies, individuals, firms and providers. We all have a part to play in this and if we don’t, there will be a dilution in public confidence.

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When I took on the role of diversity and inclusion champion for the London Insurance Institute, I never realised just how challenging it would be. It has given me a whole new perspective and has changed my approach to new and old tasks alike. I feel I have evolved as an individual and I feel our Institute has made a significant contribution to other people doing the same.

To have stayed silent at this point would have been to imply that I had no issue with the statements made on social media. For me, that is not an option – we all have to be prepared to call others, and sometimes ourselves, to account.

Robert Reid is partner at CanScot



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There are 26 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. May be if the got rid of advisers who hide behind pseudonym names we may get rid of some of the comments While there is a case of using a pseudonym then those who do should take their responsibilities more seriously and write as if they are willing to give their full name rather than take the cowards way out to insult people for their values and beliefs and principles
    Social media and blogs are great but if you are not prepared to stand by what you have written you have no place in entering any the debate.
    That is my guiding principle when come to social media.

    • Agreed; why hide if you have something (hopefully valuable) to say?

    • If personal integrity is not enough to keep to James’ guiding principle, then maybe realising the risk of unmasking is.

      People can and do lose jobs and reputations over this, as well as bringing down the reputation of the industry.

    • I agree psudomanes is the problem for my mind. I try to remain polite to those who post using a real name (as there is reputational risk for both parties then), but that doesn’t stretch to those being critical of individuals while being so cowadly as to hide behind a made up name.
      What really anoys me is those who then say it’s for “compliance reasons”…. it’s not, it is contractural reasons if they are employed and becuase they know they can be called to accound by their SPS provider and possibley even in court if their statements are not factually correct.
      MM isn’t to bad with this as I think even where a name is made up on here, I think they know who the poster is, so can moderate it. Citywire’s New Model Adviser seem to have the worst offenders, but I think they like the click bate.
      There are a lot of cowards out there who don’t stand by their own words.

  2. Very well said.

  3. Well said Rob and James

  4. Well said Rob. Professionalism and the behaviour of some you refer to are just incompatible.

  5. Having re-read the offending article on NMA, perhaps her raising it in public in a speech was inapporpriate as it was then out of context and should have been addreesed when or shortly after it was said.
    As with most things,m there are often two sides to a story and Megan Butler chose to make it part of the story without context.

  6. Brilliant piece Rob, as one involved in that ‘mini Twitter war’ thus piece sums up everything that was wrong about that persons comments and their defence of them along with several of the other comments made on the original story.

    As for getting rid of pseudonyms in this case the person in question did post under their own name, they did not try to hide from thier comments indeed they defended and even almost revelled in them.

    Others have to use a pseudonym for various reasons notably to hide their identity and comments from the firm they work for which may not allow social media commentary. Just using a pseudonym doesn’t mean you will make derogatory or nasty comments.

  7. Is there not a saying, he without sin should cast the first stone ……

    My first thought is the Monty Python sketch, …are there any women in the crowd no no no …(deeper voice) NO NO NO NO
    We unfortunately work in an industry where anger and persecution runs high

  8. Peter Blackburn 18th April 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Well said Robert.

  9. The CII code of ethical standards required to maintain an SPS includes:

    2.Act with the highest ethical standards and integrity.

    5.Treat people fairly regardless of age; disability; transgender; pregnancy and maternity; marriage and civil partnership; race; religion and belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

    The person individual at the heart of this story failed on both in my opinion.

    • Right to a fair trial is also ingrained in English Law and trial by speech or web article.
      The eprson who actually used the dismissive words “little lady” might be kind enough to explain the context in which those words were used.
      If Megan Butler or the lady referred to had issue, they could have brought it to the attention of the SPS provider of teh person concerend (if a regulated individual i.e. CF30) or used the Senior Management system. They chose not to at the time (for whatever reason) and then used it in a speech.
      There are always two sides to a story, but if you only hear one, then I woudl say that is a breach of principle 6 i.e. to treat people fairly.

      I can’t have an opinion on the original person in this story as I wasn’t present when the words were spoken, nor I believe from Megan Butler’s speech was she present, so it is at present uncorrobarated hearsay from one party.

      I have a very interesting “record of meeting” I think the FCA called it, a bit like a set of minutes purported to be a true reflection of a meeting I had with teh FCA about the 15 year longstop and the fact we mention it in our Client Agreements. It bears little or no resembelance to what was actually said (and I can prove it) nor the context in which it was said, nor the tone. So basically a totally different representation to make (in my opinion) it look like the FCA staff concerned had not just wasted 2 years arguing about something that their own legal team (present in the meeting) effectively confirmed we had been right about for nealry 10 years. The two sides of A4 they were disputing had approximately 2 lines changed simply so they could say they’d done something.
      When we complained about the innacuracy of their notes and the false message it gave, instead of it taking 6 weeks to handle our complaint, it took them 12 months…..
      Far to few people hold the FCA (publicly) to account for their own flaws, preferring to keep their heads well below the parapet lest they get a visit from the boys (and girls) at the FCA.
      A desire to be a profession on the part of some, doesn’t mean we all wish to partake.
      If you deal with professionals, I can see why oen might want to be part of the same club.
      Most of the clients I deal with are tradespeople. I prefer to be part of that club (a trade).
      I have sat two PFS/CII 3 hour exams this week in order to confirm my (expanded) knowledge. I am committed to Ethics, social resposibility and all the things under 2 and 5. I have read the Quoran as well as the bible to get a better understanding of different people’s perspectives, but there are plenty of people in the CII and F-pack I have come across who are sexist (male and female), masogonistic (male), racist (white, black, asian, homophobic (and don’t respect the LGB community) and do not respect other people’s faith.
      They remain members of the professional bodies and continue to get issued their SPS because the SPS system is not working.

  10. What’s in a name? Pseudonyms are a grey area at best.

    Is a named contributer writing abuse better than a hidden contributer writing something worthwhile? I’m sure some apparently real names are also pseudonyms. What’s more important, the message or the name?

    For the record my real name is registered with MM and ‘Grey Area’ is also a name, albeit of a fictional character… 🙂

    • @GA – Your real name is registered with MM as it should be in my opinion as it makes you accountable for what you say just as I am.
      What I say, can result in reputational damage, that’s the only difference and it’s only those who might cause reputationl damage to another whilst posting anon that need to be held to account viatheir MM registered name.
      Most of any reputationla damage I might do, I am quite capable of doing to myself without any help from someone else. Conversly, my openness and willingess to debate, may appeal to some clients/potential clients and that is a risk I take.

  11. For any who’d liek to read Megan Butler’s speech, the link is here.

  12. Now I do hope you’ve all now read her pre-prepared speech
    I am 98% with what she has said in her published speech (1% = I am not sure I agree that gender and the diversity question is for the regulator, it is for government)
    The other 1% is that I don’t think that her “little lady” was of any value in the speech without contextual evidence. We know the context with the “Presidents Club” as it has been previously reported, the “little lady” comment had not been.

    • Why are you focusing on the speech rather than the disgraceful comments that followed it?

      • Becuase the speech is actually more important. The “little lady” comment in teh speech was playing to the audience and was a distraction from what was important in the speech.
        What is now of more interest is whether the person who referred to the woman as a “littel lady” is the same person recently fined for pursuing a whistleblower inappropriately after being warned NOT to do so by other senio managers.
        The whistleblower’s treatment and the inapproprately lenient actions of the FCA is a massively more important issue than a masogonistic use of words.

        • So you’re saying that the speech Megan Butler gave, or the fact she mentioned an instance overt sexism is the real problem here.

          That’s the REAL problem?

          Not the prevalence of discrimination based on gender that is everywhere in our industry?

          No, The speech is the problem.

          Not the disparity between pay for men or women?

          No, The speech.

          Not the harassment or inappropriate behaviour.

          Its definitely the speech.

          Well done for focusing your attention on the important issues Phil.

          • I was saying it was a very good speech.The throw away line referring to the “little lady” was an uneccesary distraction from what was a very important speech.

          • Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick…. get off your high horse and you might be able to pick up the right end.

      • @Matt Amber – Are you a regulated adviser?

  13. I had missed that AMI’s former head resigned due to claims of him bullying/trolling.

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