Here at the Institute of Financial Planning we take ethics very seriously. So much so that it is integral to our continuing professional development scheme, with an annual requirement of 2.5 hours.
You might well be wondering what the point of that is, other than to give you one more thing to think about when sorting out your CPD. Or you might be thinking you are not an IFP member so it does not apply to you.
But remember the first principle of the FCA’s approved persons regime: “an approved person must act with integrity in carrying out his accountable functions”.
To reflect the Statements of Principle and the move to a more values-based regulatory regime, we thought it made absolute sense to place greater emphasis on ethics within the CPD requirements.
We wanted to highlight its importance and reflect the fact that it underpins every interaction you have with clients and colleagues.
Ethics drive behaviour and what is important is what you actually do. We all know what we should do in certain situations and have probably come across some poor questions that purport to test that: “You see a Ferrari parked with keys in the ignition, what should you do?”
That may be an extreme example but it illustrates the point. It’s a hypothetical scenario but there is merit in taking inspiration from real- life examples and applying some critical reflection to a situation that happened. Reflection is a vital part of any CPD activity, and often done superficially, so practice is useful. Critical reflection can become the point of the exercise rather than an add-on. Reflecting on a situation that raised some thorny issues and truly understanding how they came about can help you to avoid a similar dilemma in the future.
The IFP’s ethics CPD workshop includes interactive sessions led by academics from Leeds University Business School, where delegates are given short ethical case studies. The purpose being to discuss how to deal with them. What is interesting is that the academics base their case studies on situations that financial planners and advisers have actually faced. So why not make the most of your own (or colleagues’) experience and come up with a reflective exercise of your own?
Think back to a situation that caused an ethical dilemma:
- What happened and how did the situation arise?
- What ethical dilemmas did it present?
- What course of action did you take and why?
Now for the reflection:
- Looking back, what might you have done differently?
- How would alternatives have had a negative or positive impact?
- What could you do in future to stop a similar situation arising?
The hallmark of any profession is adherence to the highest ethical standards, so why not reflect that commitment as part of your CPD?
Sam Rees-Adams is director of professional standards at the IFP