Having The Right To Expect Professionalism

According to an old study by David Lazenby, Ph.D., the rate of medical professionals’ hand-washing in one hospital rose to nearly 100% when the following sign was posted in waiting areas and patient rooms: “You Have the Right to Ask Any Medical Professional to Wash His or Her Hands Before Treating You.” Nowadays, I suspect far fewer medical professionals need to be asked. The sign probably isn’t even necessary.

Patient / Client Rights

Yet, when I heard this from Dr. Lazenby at a conference, I thought about a sign that could be posted in any financial professional’s office: “You Have the Right to Be Understood Before Recommendations are Given.”

Part of practicing a profession is crafting diagnoses, prescriptions, and advice that is unique to each presenting patient or client. By washing their hands, and reviewing charts, doctors don’t bring the last patient’s problems to the next one. Yet the financial industry has chosen to mass produce diagnoses, prescriptions, and advice.

Right to A Unique Plan

Kathy and Kyle walked into a brokerage office with questions about a seven-figure inheritance from her father. Not knowing where to turn, they chose the national firm that already held her father’s account. The representative asked some questions, then produced a laminated pie chart suggesting how to allocate the cash. Kathy and Kyle asked a few questions of the broker. He answered them. They were going to consider his proposal. As they stood to leave, Kyle reached for the chart. The broker, panicked, grabbed it back, and said, “Oh, no, you can’t take that. I need it for my next client.”

When a financial representative shows the same laminated pie chart to every client, they are not selling professional advice. They are selling a professionally assembled financial widget disguised as advice.

Right to Find Better

Why, as a society before covid-19, did we tolerate medical staff who didn’t wash their hands? Why do we tolerate financial staff who assume all clients are the same? Why do we expect professionalism but tolerate something less? The next time someone offers you advice but has not clearly understood you and your issues first, then demand better, or find someone else.

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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