“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin

Seniors don’t want to deal with “any old salesman.” They want to work with someone with integrity and experience, backed by a strong, reputable company that is highly rated in the industry. More than any other age group, this generation places the utmost value on the integrity of the financial advisor and his or her ability to withstand trials and tribulations.

While integrity is the cornerstone in effectively working with seniors, there are those in the industry muddying the insurance waters with deceitful activities. In fact, in a study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the insurance industry ranked fifth on the list of industries most frequently investigated by the organization. The author of the survey also stated that insurance agents were involved in more than half of the examined cases. Fraud in our industry is growing and becoming more and more prevalent with senior clients.

And while the vast majority of advisors uphold the highest levels of integrity, the media will always focus on the stories of those who don’t – exacerbating an already challenging situation for the life insurance and financial services community as a whole.

When an individual financial advisor puts his or her own direct interests above those of their client, they have not only risked their integrity and in turn their career – they have also risked ours. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A little integrity is better than any career.”

While we can’t change the actions of all financial advisors, we can take responsibility for our own actions and come together to change perceptions and maintain the reputation of this prominent industry.

Since the great majority of advisors act with integrity, we must all work together to promote this concept through our interactions with consumers and other professionals we come across in our daily lives.

Helping new agents learn the value of integrity is also important. Getting involved in a mentoring program is a simple way we can work with new or less-experienced advisors to lead by example. As a mentor, we can demonstrate the need to listen to our clients, keep our promises and provide advice and products that suit their financial needs.

Joining a professional organization with a strict code of ethics for financial advisors, such as MDRT or the Society of Financial Service Professionals, is another way to demonstrate our commitment to our clients and our industry, and to work as a team to promote the value of integrity in our industry.

One bad apple can lead to the “Death of a Salesman,” so it is more important than ever to recognize that our relationships with seniors begin by strengthening our ethics, integrity and professionalism. Only then can we each continue growing our business and client relationships through the quality of the company we represent and the performance behind the products we recommend.