When you’re on your deathbed, will you regret having spent so much time at the office? Probably not, say healthcare workers who counsel patients in their final days. In fact, one such worker, Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, collected her patients’ disappointments on her blog, eventually publishing a book on the topic called “”The Top Five Regrets of the Dying; A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.” LifeHealthPro.com <http://LifeHealthPro.com>  recently published a discussion of her work here.

According to Ware, the top five regrets in ascending strength are:

5. “I wish I had let myself be happier.

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

These are powerful insights—and a learning opportunity for the rest of us. So much so that we’d like to pose a related question: “What are the top five regrets of (you guessed it) unethical advisors?”

This question flows from our hope that even rogue advisors have consciences and might look back with sadness on their dubious business practices. Furthermore, ethical advisors who understand and learn from those regrets will be better able to resist temptation as their own careers play out.

So without further adieu, here’s our take on the top five regrets unethical advisors likely feel when they leave the industry:

1. “I wish I had spent more time getting to know my clients’ needs, rather than selling products that served my needs.” This is an issue because advisors who pursue their own agendas rather than their clients’ lose sight of the noble purpose of our industry: to help people achieve their cherished dreams through wise leverage of financial resources. Advisors who tap into that purpose go to work every day truly energized. Those who don’t are instead motivated by greed, a shallow emotion that makes them small.

2. “I wish I hadn’t misrepresented my products in order to close sales.” Advisors who lie about product features and benefits will make sales, but come to regret their predatory “techniques.” At the end of their careers, they will feel sadness because they’ll never know if they could have succeeded by applying legitimate knowledge and skills rather than by lying.

3. “I wish I’d been more transparent about my track record and business practices.” Unethical advisors often tout sham expertise and dubious credentials, while making promises in the sales process they have no intention of keeping. Looking back, these advisors will regret their clients never knew the “real” human being behind their scammer’s mask.

4. “I wished I hadn’t replaced and/or churned so much business.” These advisors will eventually realize they never added sustainable value to the industry and worse, made their clients poorer and less able to enjoy a safe and secure retirement.

5. “I wished I’d done more due diligence on my FMO, broker-dealer, or other business partners. Such advisors often fall prey to deceptive partners hawking fraudulent schemes. In hindsight, they’ll wish they’d been more skeptical of those bearing too-good-to-be-true offers.

In short, the best way to avoid end-of-career regrets is to simply do business the old-fashioned way—with a commitment to quality and adherence to compliant business practices and ethical values. And here’s a bonus: doing business with integrity is also great for reducing your errors-and-omissions risk. When you treat your clients the right way, they will be much less likely to file complaints or take legal action against you.

To make this a reality, here are some immediate steps to take:

  • Develop a written code of ethics.
  • Promote an ethical office culture.
  • Hire honest cmployees.
  • Do business transparently.

For specific guidance on these points, watch for Part 2 in this series.

For more information on affordable errors and omissions insurance for low-risk financial advisors, please visit E&OforLess.com. For information on ethical sales practices, please visit the National Ethics Association’s Ethics Center

 

In your final days, will you regret having worked too hard? Bronnie Ware, the Australian palliative care nurse we wrote about in Part 1 of this series, says many people have that and several other common regrets at the end of their lives, which she discusses in her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying; A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.”

Ware’s thoughts so inspired us that we began to wonder what regrets unethical advisors might have. After discussing the top five in our last column, we listed four strategies for building a “no-regrets” career in financial services, while reducing your errors-and-omissions risk.

This month, we’d like to expand upon each strategy and then provide tips for executing them.

First, develop a written code of ethics. Is this necessary when so many advisor associations promulgate their own codes? Yes! Writing your own clarifies what YOU stand for and makes you accountable TO YOURSELF. This will help you became an advisor without peer when it comes to assuring ethical business practices.

Second, promote an ethical office culture. The goal is to make ethics part of your firm’s normal behavior. That means ethical conduct will occur even when you (or Compliance) aren’t around to watch.

Third, hire honest employees. Ethics codes are powerless against people who are inherently unethical. This happens when parents fail to lead by positive example. For this reason, make a strong effort to weed out candidates for whom ethical conduct doesn’t come naturally.

Fourth, do business transparently. This means your clients should know who you are, where you’ve been, what you stand for, how you operate, and what exactly they’ve bought. This knowledge is a powerful regret killer, both for your clients and for you.

How to execute these strategies? Here are a few pointers to guide you.

  • In developing a personal code of ethics, think expansively. Consider every phase of the customer relationship and the values you want to express at each point. Then define the behaviors that will be required to convey those values. Now, for each behavior, define a standard. Finally, capture these thoughts (values/behaviors/standards) in writing and print out a polished document.
  • To promote an ethical culture, share your written code with your team and model ethical behavior every day. Then, reward exemplary conduct and expose undesirable conduct wherever and whenever they occur. If someone violates a code provision, make sure the consequences fit the crime.
  • To surround yourself with honest people, develop a detailed profile of the desired attitudes, skills, and ethical values you’re looking for. Then during the hiring process, don’t settle for anything less than your ideal candidate. Most importantly, listen to your “gut.” If a candidate feels wrong, terminate the process immediately. Also, administer an honesty assessment early on. Three well-respected instruments are the Personnel Selection Inventory (PSI), the Reid Report Risk Assessment, and the Veracity Analysis Questionnaire (VAQ).
  • To do business transparently, make sure to comply with all mandated disclosures. But go well beyond them by explaining your background in depth, your new-business and post-sale procedures, and what drives you to serve your clients.

These tips can only scratch the surface of a tremendously deep topic. So we hereby make this challenge: Consider what a “no-regrets” career means to you personally and to your firm’s errors-and-omissions exposure. Take steps now to prevent the behavior that spawns regrets and lawsuits. And try to remediate past mistakes that will sadden and potentially cost you big money later. Because as Bronnie Ware knows so well, it’s hard to make amends when your time has run out.

For information on ethical sales practices, please visit the National Ethics Association’s Ethics Center. For more information on affordable errors and omissions insurance for low-risk financial advisors, visit E&OforLess.com.

 

When you’re on your deathbed, will you regret having spent so much time at the office? Probably not, say healthcare workers who counsel patients in their final days. In fact, one such worker, Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, collected her patients’ disappointments on her blog, eventually publishing a book on the topic called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying; A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.” LifeHealthPro.com recently published a discussion of her work here.

According to Ware, the top five regrets in ascending strength are:

5. “I wish I had let myself be happier.
4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

These are powerful insights—and a learning opportunity for the rest of us. So much so that we’d like to pose a related question: “What are the top five regrets of (you guessed it) unethical advisors?”

This question flows from our hope that even rogue advisors have consciences and might look back with sadness on their dubious business practices. Furthermore, ethical advisors who understand and learn from those regrets will be better able to resist temptation—and errors-and-omissions problems—as their own careers play out.
So without further adieu, here’s our take on the top five regrets unethical advisors feel when they leave the industry:

1. “I wish I had spent more time getting to know my clients’ needs, rather than selling products that served my needs.” This is an issue because advisors who pursue their own agendas rather than their clients’ lose sight of the noble purpose of our industry: to help people achieve their cherished dreams through wise leverage of financial resources. Advisors who tap into that purpose go to work every day truly energized. Those who don’t are instead motivated by greed, a shallow emotion that makes them small.

2. “I wish I hadn’t misrepresented my products in order to close sales.” Advisors who lie about product features and benefits will make sales, but come to regret their predatory “techniques.” At the end of their careers, they will feel sadness because they’ll never know if they could have succeeded by applying legitimate knowledge and skills rather than by lying.

3. “I wish I’d been more transparent about my track record and business practices.” Unethical advisors often tout sham expertise and dubious credentials, while making promises in the sales process they have no intention of keeping. Looking back, these advisors will regret their clients never knew the “real” human being behind their scammer’s mask.

4. “I wished I hadn’t replaced and/or churned so much business.” These advisors will eventually realize they never added sustainable value to the industry and worse, made their clients poorer and less able to enjoy a safe and secure retirement.

5. “I wished I’d done more due diligence on my FMO, broker-dealer, or other business partners. Such advisors often fall prey to deceptive partners hawking fraudulent schemes. In hindsight, they’ll wish they’d been more skeptical of those bearing too-good-to-be-true offers.

In short, the best way to avoid end-of-career regrets —and errors-and-omissions claims, for that matter—is to simply do business the old-fashioned way—with a commitment to quality and adherence to compliant business practices and ethical values. Here are some steps to take as the new year unfolds:

  • Develop a written code of ethics.
  • Promote an ethical office culture.
  • Hire honest cmployees.
  • Do business transparently.

For specific guidance on these points, watch for Part 2 in this series.

For information on ethical sales practices, please visit the National Ethics Association’s Ethics Center. For more information on affordable errors and omissions insurance for low-risk financial advisors, visit E&OforLess.com.

It’s hard to avert one’s eyes when rogue advisor accounts appear in the press. In the same way people stare at twisted car wrecks, ethical advisors want to read about how rogues scam the old, the disabled, and the gullible. And what do they learn from these stories? That self-centeredness is a plot twist with tragic consequences. Consider these true-life examples:

  • A Long Island, N.Y.-based broker agreed to settle SEC charges that he defrauded elderly nuns in the Bronx, NY.  The SEC claimed the broker churned low-risk accounts and charged excessive fees, consuming 10 percent of the accounts’ value in a 13-month period. Without admitting or denying wrongdoing, the broker agreed to an order banishing him from the securities business.
  • A New York financial advisor pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing nearly $200,000 from an investment account held in trust by guardians of disabled children. The trust contained money from medical malpractice settlements. Although the funds were supposed to be invested only in U.S. Treasury Bonds or New York Municipal Bonds, the advisor made unauthorized trades to receive higher commissions, generating fund losses of between $400,000 and $1 million.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a 77-year-old financial advisor for defrauding 2,600 mostly Amish investors. The Ohio advisor raised $33 million from his clients, promising them he’d purchase risk-free government securities. Instead, he made high-risk investments, sustained $15 million in losses, and then provided account statements showing fabricated gains.

What made these advisors do what they did? Did they act out of greed, stupidity, or a lust for power? All of the above. But we believe another factor was more important: self-centeredness. Their purpose in life was to bask in self-generated glory. Blinded by their own light, they viewed clients as a means to selfish ends. And their distorted view ended up wrecking their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

So how do you avoid self-centeredness? Here are a couple suggestions from EOforLess.com:

  • Synch your self-confidence with reality. If you find yourself having grandiose self-beliefs, ask a trusted friend or advisor to put them (and you) in proper perspective.
  • Resist the tendency to pursue power at all costs. Hurting others in the pursuit of ambition is wrong. Just don’t do it.
  • Don’t treat people right only when it serves your own purposes. Do it all the time because it’s the right thing to do.
  • Don’t make decisions based solely on internal beliefs. Your “gut” will often mislead you. Instead, draw upon the external values you learned at home, at church, and at school.

Most importantly, don’t let self-centeredness sabotage your life. Those who serve their clients’ best interests get to write their own happy endings—and they avoid errors-and-omissions claims, too!

For information on ethical sales practices, please visit the National Ethics Association’s Ethics Center. For more information on affordable errors and omissions insurance for low-risk financial advisors, visit E&OforLess.com.