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.
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.
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