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Steven Harker

Message from Director, Steven Harker

It is impossible to legislate or regulate to completely eliminate either poor or criminal behaviour in society. Ultimately it comes down to the individual and one’s own ethics and integrity. Sadly we do need to regulate though to punish those who breach society’s moral or judicial standards; and to set the bar regarding both the moral and the judicial hazard. However, as has always been shown by history, the role of the individual is paramount – and this is why the taking of the Oath is so important. No amount of law or regulation can overcome poor individual or collective behavior. INDIVIDUALS do however have that power. 
Let us then add to that the role of management – at every level in any organization – in reinforcing not only the power of the individual to put clients first but in reminding all of their colleagues about those words of advice when I first joined the industry. 
Whenever one is faced with having to make a choice or to have a difficult conversation with a colleague (or indeed a more senior or junior executive) there is always one framework that works for every occasion. It simply is:

“What would the client think?”
It is indeed no different to the old political behavior test of what is proper and right: “would you want to read about this on the front page of tomorrow’s paper?”
Taking the Oath is easy, staying true to it is harder – until one remembers the client as core to all our businesses. Remember what it is that has always worked throughout history... and what has always failed.


Fiona Guthrie on Saturday, 15 Dec 2018
This is a nice reminder from Steven about a fundamental tenet - never forget the customer. I worry a bit however about the front page of the newspaper test. The danger is that this can be interpreted by some people as a mechanism to assess whether or not you take a specific action. If it isn't likely to end up on the front page, then don't worry too much. Now I know that is not what is intended, but it can come across that way. In fact, it is what you do when no one is watching that really counts. Ethical behaviour is an intrinsic value. And as a so-called "test", it doesn't get you very far. Conflicts of interest in financial planning for example have been on the pages of our newspapers for years - but that didn't stop the industry arguing for them to continue. And it was only with the blow torch of a Royal Commission where we saw evidence from people who were so badly affected that the community became outraged.

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