Good news! Advisors trump doctors on trust

By Steven McCarty

The National Ethics Association


Financial advisors usually come up short in trust polls, trailing professionals like doctors and accountants. That’s why a recent survey from John Hancock caught my attention. It found that 84 percent of mass affluent investors said they trusted financial advisors more than their primary doctor (79 percent), accountants (74 percent), contractors/handymen (52 percent), bosses (49 percent), and real estate agents (43 percent).

Clearly, advisors are doing something right (congrats!). According to the survey, the top trust-building behaviors were giving clear explanations of investment recommendations and being knowledgeable and timely about products and trends. Also effective were disclosing one’s compensation and quickly answering client questions.

Why did advisors edge out physicians? Perhaps consumers are finally noticing that medical conduct isn’t what it used to be. Dr. Drew is a prominent example. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the popular radio and TV personality received $275,000 from GlaxoSmithKline for touting its Wellbutrin antidepressant on the air. Sure, Drew claims his statements were “consistent” with his medical experience, but Glaxo’s payment raises big questions about his (and their) professional ethics.

Conflict of interest is not the only issue. How about the failure of some doctors to advocate for patients who need specific treatments or medicines? Sure, the docs are drowning in insurance paperwork and tired of battling insurance company gatekeepers. But still, they owe it to patients to fight for the care they deserve, even though it’s an aggravating and time-consuming process. Wouldn’t they want their doctor to fight for them?

Or what about patient scheduling? We all know why reception rooms are called “waiting rooms,” and the reason is obvious. But do you think it’s ethical for doctors (or their practice managers) to shoehorn even more patients into each hour? How can they expect to find and diagnose medical problems without actually spending time with patients?

My point? That if you want to build healthy relationships with your clients, prescribe what they need, not what you need. Here are some broad guidelines to consider:
  • First, sit on the same side of the table with clients by avoiding conflicts of interest. You never want a client to think you’re recommending a product to meet your financial needs, not theirs.

  • Second, fight for your clients when claim or other administrative problems arise. The last thing you want is for them to feel as if they’re trapped in a hospital ward with no exits.

  • Third, don’t be stingy with your time. Put in the hours it takes to fully understand the richness of your clients’ lives. Recommending financial products without really knowing your clients needs is a quack’s game.

  • Fourth, and finally, care about your clients’ welfare. Too many doctors have forgotten that medicine is about assisting people. If you want to build trust, truly help your clients and do no harm.