T. J. Pool of Arlington, Texas-based Options Marketing, Inc. recently shared his thoughts with us on being an ethical advisor. Following are highlights from that discussion.

Senior Market Advisor: We hear a lot about suitability in this industry, but in your mind what is that that makes one an “ethical advisor?”
T. J. Pool: People are looking for a trusted advisor. Ethics is more than a word, it’s a work in progress. If your clients’ needs are not put first, from a fiduciary responsibility point of view, you have missed your goal. Early in 2002, we happened upon a veteran who had dealt with three other advisors over the last five years. They’d each taken him to various paralegals to try to establish a living trust, but all they’d really done was sell him numerous different annuities from different companies. When I heard how he’d been treated, we took it upon ourselves to get this gentleman in touch with an attorney and we paid to have a trust done for him. We felt that he had been mistreated by people in our industry and the only way to make it right was to accomplish for him what others had been unwilling to do. Happily, several years later, he became a client.

SMA: What advice would you give other advisors on how to conduct themselves in the right way and to do right by their clients?
Pool: Don’t pre-judge your prospects. And don’t prejudge what your clients need. Keep the client involved at all times. One key is communication. We have meetings with our clients, many of them monthly, some annually, depending on their needs. They want to feel secure, and if they don’t get the chance to talk with someone, they don’t feel secure. Someone needs to talk with them and let them know what’s going on. From an ethical standpoint, most people in sales only have one or two items in their briefcase–that’s what they sell. But this is not a world of one answer fits all, one hat fits all. Everybody’s needs are different. You need something that will fit each client.