FPA members may be placed by clients in positions of trust and confidence. The ultimate source of such public trust is the FPA member’s personal integrity. In deciding what is right and just, an FPA member should rely on his or her integrity as the appropriate touchstone. Integrity demands honesty and candor, which must not be subordinated to personal gain and advantage. Within the characteristic of integrity, allowance can be made for innocent error and legitimate difference of opinion; but integrity cannot co-exist with deceit or subordination of one’s principles. Integrity requires an FPA member to observe not only the letter but also the spirit of this Code.
Regardless of the service they provide or the capacity in which they perform, FPA members are counted upon by clients to utilize intellectual honesty and impartiality in providing advice. An FPA members’ primary responsibility is to protect the integrity of his or her work, ensuring objectivity is maintained at all times, and avoiding any subordination of judgment that would result in violation of this Code. It is essential that any advice be based solely on a client’s particular situation, goals, objectives and risk tolerance. This ensures that the advice meets the ethical and fiduciary standards to which financial planning professionals adhere to for the benefit of their clients.
An FPA member shall provide services to clients using not only competence in financial planning, but the prudence expected from a professional possessing the necessary knowledge and skill to do so in those areas in which the services are being provided. Competence is achieved by attaining and maintaining an adequate level of knowledge and skill, and applying that knowledge effectively when rendering services to clients. It also requires the wisdom to recognize the limitations of that knowledge and determining when referral to other professionals is appropriate. A continuing commitment to learning and professional improvement is necessary to ensure the professional remains current with the laws and regulations that affect each client’s particular financial situation.
An FPA member is expected to perform in a manner that is considered to be fair and reasonable to clients, principals, partners, and employers. To be considered fair and reasonable, services must be performed utilizing impartiality, intellectual honesty, and disclosure of conflict(s) of interest(s). It is absolutely necessary to subordinate one’s own feelings, prejudices, and desires if a professional is to achieve a proper balance of conflicting interests. Fairness is providing services to a client equivalent to those a professional would expect to receive and is an essential trait of any prudent financial planning professional.
A client seeking the services of a financial planning professional is interested in creating a relationship of personal trust and confidence in dealing with his or her personal matters. Trust and confidence can only be achieved through mutual understanding that information supplied will remain confidential. For services to be rendered effectively while protecting the client’s privacy, the professional must safeguard the confidentiality of the information provided. An FPA member can legally only disclose confidential client information with the specific consent of the client unless the information is disclosed through proper legal process, in defense to charges of wrongdoing by the professional or in response to a civil dispute by the client.
An FPA member is expected to display conduct befitting the profession. Financial planning is a needed service that is dependent upon the confidence of the public to whom it serves. The obligation is to behave with dignity and courtesy at all times towards not only clients, but other financial planners and those in related professions with whom you deal in conducting the services as well. Cooperation is vital to enhance and maintain the profession’s public image and to work together with other professionals to improve the quality of the services provided.