Placing the client’s interests first is a hallmark of professionalism, requiring the financial planner to act honestly and not place personal and/or employer gain or advantage before the client’s interests.
Integrity requires honesty and candor in all professional matters. Financial planners are placed in positions of trust by clients, and the ultimate source of that trust is the financial planner’s personal integrity. Allowance can be made for legitimate differences of opinion, but integrity cannot co-exist with deceit or subordination of one’s principles. Integrity requires the financial planner to observe both the letter and the spirit of the Code of Ethics.
Objectivity requires intellectual honesty and impartiality. Regardless of the services delivered or the capacity in which a financial planner functions, objectivity requires financial planners to ensure the integrity of their work, manage conflicts and exercise sound professional judgment.
Fairness requires providing clients what they are due, owed or should expect from a professional relationship, and includes honesty and disclosure of material conflicts of interest.
It involves managing one’s own feelings, prejudices and desires to achieve a proper balance of interests. Fairness is treating others in the same manner that you would want to be treated.
Professionalism requires behaving with dignity and showing respect and courtesy to clients, fellow professionals, and others in business-related activities, and complying with appropriate rules, regulations and professional requirements. Professionalism requires the financial planner, individually and in cooperation with peers, to enhance and maintain the profession’s public image and its ability to serve the public interest.
Competence requires attaining and maintaining an adequate level of knowledge, skills and abilities in the provision of professional services. Competence also includes the wisdom to recognize one’s own limitations and when consultation with other professionals is appropriate or referral to other professionals is necessary. Competence requires the financial planner to make a continuing commitment to learning and professional improvement.
Confidentiality requires client information to be protected and maintained in such a manner that allows access only to those who are authorized. A relationship of trust and confidence with the client can only be built on the understanding that the client’s information will not be disclosed inappropriately.
Diligence requires fulfilling professional commitments in a timely and thorough manner, and taking due care in planning, supervising and delivering professional services.