Ethics has to be real. Ethics has to be appropriate. However, ethics does not have to be serious. Seriousness is a style. And there shouldn’t be a prohibition on taking pleasure in doing the right thing.
I was asked to distinguish between ethics and morality. Morality is what is considered right or wrong by a person or society. Ethics is morality in action. So, if you believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, then it would be unethical for you to desecrate his image. For that matter, if you don’t believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God but you do believe in respecting other people’s beliefs, you would avoid desecrating images of God worshipped by others.
Notice, I framed morality based on an individual’s belief and, in my second example, I changed the belief but applied the decision to act the same way. There are subtle difference that I won’t get into in this post.
Obviously, desecration of holy objects is a very grave matter. But the non-desecration should not be. It should simply be the norm that people are respectful of each other’s beliefs.
This can be applied to corporations. There is one difficulty with corporations, though: they aren’t democracies. The president or CEO gets to prescribe the appropriate behaviors and one must keep morality to the self. This is an HR issue.
I want to talk about ethics and sales. Financial advisors may have their own personal beliefs, but they take an oath to act in accordance with a set of codified conducts. The industry set these up specifically because FAs are knowledge workers and what they provide is not just financial products but advice. For this reason, an inappropriate product for a certain type of client is forbidden. This hurts the investor and it makes the industry look like cheaters. So, if you want to join the industry, you much follow the ethical guidelines prescribed to you.
This prescription even goes as far as breaking the code of coduct of the financial institution the FA is working for. Against, this no-exemption exists so that firms cannot create an environment where financial advisors are permitted to dismiss their oath.
This is all serious stuff. Why? Because we are talking about harming investors.
But for an FA who loves providing value advice and access to products to his or her clients and the guidelines make him feel secure that his competitors cannot cheat, then why shouldn’t they have a smile on their faces?
Marcus Maltempo is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and a Certified Fraud Examiner with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses.