You’re ethical, right? You do thorough fact-finding with clients. You recommend only suitable products. You believe in full disclosure. And since you do these things, your clients believe you are ethical. So what’s the problem?

The problem is you’re a human being. That means you’re hardwired to get comfortable when life is good. The more success you achieve, the more likely this will happen. And when complacency erodes your commitment to ethics, you’ll be on thin ice before long. How to avoid skating there? By periodically testing ?? 1/2 and sharpening ?? 1/2 your ethics edge. The quiz below will get you started.

1. Do you always protect and promote your client’s best interests, even to your own financial detriment?

2. Are you totally honest in explaining your education and business background, including your licenses and designations?

3. Do you always disclose the important features of your products or services, including potential risks that may affect future performance or value?

4. Are you totally truthful about the realistic returns or future values a client can expect?

5. Do you thoroughly probe a client’s current and future needs in order to make suitable recommendations?

6. Do you respect client confidentiality even under third-party pressure to disclose information?

7. Do you only use advertising and presentation materials that are completely accurate and legally compliant?

8. Do you always provide clients with copies of required documents relating to the products they have purchased?

9. Do you always refer your clients to an outside advisor for expertise that is beyond your training and current license?

10. Do you stay up to date on all industry practices, including emerging trends, new government regulations, and the latest product innovations?

Obviously, the correct answer is “yes” for all 10 questions. How did you do?

* If you scored 90 to 100 percent, your ethics edge is ultra sharp. Your challenge: to further develop your ethical values and to share them with others by becoming an industry leader.

* If you scored 70 to 80 percent, your ethics edge is getting dull. Solution: Search your soul about where your business and life are headed. Review the ethics codes of the professionals groups to which you belong. Recommit to high levels of ethics in every aspect of your business ?? 1/2 and life.

* If you scored 60 percent or lower, your ethics edge is rusting over. If you continue skating on thin ice, client lawsuits and/or regulator sanctions are in your future. Solution? As soon as possible, challenge yourself to get serious about ethics and sharpen your moral values. Write and post a new code of ethics for your practice ?? 1/2 and pledge to live by the code every day. (For a free copy of the NEB Ethics Pledge visit www.ethicscheck.com)

The point is this: Nothing is more important than your professional ethics. Once you lose your ethics edge, you run the risk of falling through the ice into a cold, dark place. You don’t want to go there.

*For further information or to contact this author, please use the forum below.