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In the Oct/Nov ’09 issue of The Journal, a magazine produced by the Chartered Insurance Institute, the President wrote.

“The capability and effectiveness of people is especially important given that general levels of trust in financial services as a whole are so low.”

At the Expert International Adviser forum held in Singapore on 20th Oct 2009, one of the survey findings shared by a presenter is that the level of the consumers’ trust in banks has gone down presumably due to the recent failure of structured products.

Trust is so difficult to build but so easy to be destroyed.

One of the most important things we look for in our staff and advisers is honesty and integrity. And we train our advisers to also build clientele of the same ilk. Managing a difficult customer is one thing. Dealing with one who is dishonest is courting disaster.

However, it is never so white or black and therein lies the challenge.

A bounce cheque – is it due to dishonesty or just slipshod control, or even a tactical delaying tactic?

Late payments – not occasionally but habitually – what do they reflect?

What about staff chalking up the full fourteen days of Medical leave each year?

What about Representatives recommending only products which they are familiar with and not bothering to learn about other products of either the same company or other companies?

“Building trust” is the first and most fundamental step in creating a new business relationship even before entering into any business talk. But how can trust be built between two people meeting for the first time?

It is surprising how often decisions are made supposedly based on trust but on hindsight, was really blind trust i.e. without any tangible basis. Brand building is a big thing today and basically it seeks to build trust in a name. To some extent, brand recognition is built more on advertising and marketing and may just be a construct of imaginative minds or just clever use of words.

“Personal branding” is now becoming a big thing i.e. every sales person is his own brand. It is right that every person in business or a profession, builds a good reputation for honesty, reliability, effectiveness etc. But again, if we just judge by how he looks or how he talks, one can be deceived. Parents with teens, especially girls, are particularly worried about their charges being misled and falling into bad company, or worse entering into a steady relationship with just a good looker or popular guy, but lacking in means and substance.

Since it is so difficult to be sure of who can be trusted, the best thing is to “inspect what you expect”. Be careful especially with strangers and also with people you know.

Try and test them out. Check out their credentials. The doctorate holder – is it real or just honorary? The stated number of years of experience – is it twenty years of the same or a rich build up of different and varied experiences?

The adviser who says he has the best product – has he done a valid comparison or just doing “sales talk”? Does he in the first place, have the power to represent more than one company, or is just a tied agent?

Trust should be earned and kept.

One of the challenges which my firm faced in the earlier years in the 1980’s was that we started from scratch. How would clients trust us to deliver? We knew that we would have to build trust and that we should never make promises which we can’t keep. This meant that we couldn’t talk big. This also meant we would have to give good service.

The words on the gift mugs we presented to our clients captured our intent.

“We don’t make promises that we can’t keep.”

This motto has stood us well indeed.

Our new motto? Trusted Advice, Trusted Adviser.