Being a financial advisor is an exciting and potentially lucrative career. Among its many advantages, it offers the allure of prestige in helping clients reach their financial goals and being seen as an investment professional.
But do we really understand what the word “professional” fully means?
In his latest book, “Enough,” Jack Bogle outlines one definition. To paraphrase, a professional:
1. Places the interests of clients in particular and the welfare of society in general above its own.
2. Has a specialized body of knowledge and a specialized code of conduct that sets out professional skills, practices, and performances unique to the profession. Taken together, these develop the capacity to render judgments with integrity under conditions of ethical uncertainty.
3. Defines an organized approach to learning from experience, both individually and collectively.
4. Participates in a professional community that monitors and oversees the behavior and competencies of its members.
It’s a useful definition, but it’s not abstract definitions that further your career; rather, it’s the sum of all the concrete choices that you make every day. So, with the four components of Bogle’s definition in mind, let’s consider what it takes to be a true advice professional.
Consider why you are making certain choices.
Like many of us, I was initially attracted to investment management because I found the subject matter fascinating and the career prospects attractive. Those are good and proper motivations.
They fall short, however, of what is necessary to be a professional. A professional seeks not to maximize his or her own lifetime income. Rather, when their interests conflict with their clients, they will resolve in favor of the client — always putting investors’ needs above their own.
Fortunately, the potential for conflict is less significant in the long run than it is in the short run, because placing the interests of your clients ahead of your own produces its own reward in the form of a sustainable career. But the hierarchy of interests would not change if that were not the case.
Commit to a path of lifelong learning.