From the July 2009 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

July 1, 2009

The Ethics of Advice

Sidebar to the Cover Story "Lessons from Down Under"

The definition for, and the application of, a fiduciary standard is a topic in great debate now within the U.S. financial services industry. In Australia, members of the Financial Planning Association must adhere to the (slightly abridged) following Code of Ethics.

Principle 1: Client First

Placing the client's interests first is a hallmark of professionalism, requiring the financial planner to act honestly and not place personal and/or employer gain or advantage before the client's interests.

Principle 2: Integrity

Integrity requires honesty and candor in all professional matters. Financial planners are placed in positions of trust by clients, and the ultimate source of that trust is the financial planner's personal integrity. Allowance can be made for legitimate differences of opinion, but integrity cannot co-exist with deceit or subordination of one's principles. Integrity requires the financial planner to observe both the letter and the spirit of the Code of Ethics.

Principle 3: Objectivity

Objectivity requires intellectual honesty and impartiality. Regardless of the services delivered or the capacity in which a financial planner functions, objectivity requires financial planners to ensure the integrity of their work, manage conflicts, and exercise sound professional judgment.

Principle 4: Fairness

Fairness requires providing clients what they are due, owed, or should expect from a professional relationship, and includes honesty and disclosure of material conflicts of interest...Fairness is treating others in the same manner that you would want to be treated.

Principle 5: Professionalism

Professionalism requires behaving with dignity and showing respect and courtesy to clients, fellow professionals, and others in business-related activities, and complying with appropriate rules, regulations, and professional requirements.

Principle 6: Competence

Competence requires attaining and maintaining an adequate level of knowledge, skills, and abilities in the provision of professional services. Competence also includes the wisdom to recognize one's own limitations and when consultation with other professionals is appropriate or referral to other professionals necessary. Competence requires the financial planner to make a continuing commitment to learning and professional improvement.

Principle 7: Confidentiality

Confidentiality requires client information to be protected and maintained in such a manner that allows access only to those who are authorized.

Principle 8: Diligence

Diligence requires fulfilling professional commitments in a timely and thorough manner, and taking due care in planning, supervising, and delivering professional services.

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