Proponents claim that the Labor Department’s fiduciary standard rule for retirement-accountinvesting is beneficial to clients.

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So what’s in it for financial advisors? Greater profitability.So says Dr. Bruce Weinstein, corporate ethics trainer andinternational speaker on ethics and honesty.

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Related: What plan advisors need to know now aboutthe DOL fiduciary rule

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In an interview with BenefitsPRO's sister publicationThinkAdvisor, he discusses how advisors will, long-term, becomemore prosperous if they’re guided by the Labor rule. Further, he points out the toptwo crucial high-character qualities that FAs need to have and, atthe other extreme, how the internet can permanently tarnish apractice.

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Related: 401(k) plan sponsors can't ignorefiduciary rule

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Dr. Weinstein’s mantra: “Being ethical is cool — andprofitable.” He argues that character is “the missing link toexcellence.”

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Dubbed “The Ethics Guy,” Dr. Weinstein, 56, has been a keynotespeaker for numerous financial organizations, including theInvestment Management Consultants Association (IMCA), AllstateInsurance, Societe Generale Group and the American Society ofPension Professionals and Actuaries. CEO of the Institute forHigh-Character Leadership, Dr. Weinstein conducts a Forbes onlinecolumn on the subject.

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In annual Gallup surveys asking Americans to rank honesty andethical standards in a number of professions, “business executives,stockbrokers and insurance salespeople” consistently score near thebottom, according to Weinstein. He maintains that adhering to afiduciary standard, which in itself is ethicalin concept, will make advisors true professionals and as such,generate a more positive consumer perception of them.

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Formerly an associate professor at West Virginia Universityteaching ethics to medical, nursing and dental students, Weinsteinhas helped firms hire and promote employees with high ethics formore than a decade now.

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His most recent book, “The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities ofHigh-Character Employees” (New World Library 2015), examines thecomponents of high character and why people with it achievehigh-quality outcomes.

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ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Weinstein, on the phone fromhis New York City office. The ethics authority, hired as a speakerby more than 300 organizations and groups including the NationalFootball League and the military, discussed the 10 criticalqualities of high character and how sticking to an impeccable codeof ethics can help FAs prosper.

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Here are excerpts from our conversation:

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THINKADVISOR: Why should an advisor welcome thefiduciary standard rule?

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BRUCE WEINSTEIN: The root of the word, “fiduciary,” means trust.The heart of the rule is an ethical concept, an attempt to bringfinancial advising into line with all the other professions.

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A profession is an [occupation] in which everything is meant toadvance the client’s interest. If advisors really want to be knownas professionals, they’ll [conform to] what all other professionsdo by putting the client at the center of everything.

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But hasn’t ethics always been important in financialadvising?

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With the fiduciary rule, it’s especially important. Advisorswill see that it’s not only ethical but, if they take a long-rangepoint of view, in their [financial] interest.

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Do people think that most financial advisors areethical?

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Every year Gallup surveys Americans to rank the ethicalstandards of the professions. Pulling up the bottom half year afteryear [include] business executives, stockbrokers and insurancesalespeople. The only group with lower ratings in terms oftrustworthiness are car salespeople and members of Congress.

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Some financial services groups and firms are stillopposing the fiduciary rule.

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That’s a mistake because in the long run, their businesses willprosper when they put the client at the front and center ofeverything.

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A House bill to overturn the rule was recentlyintroduced. Your thoughts?

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That makes no sense. If there were a conflict about doing theright thing and prospering financially, I could understand. Butthere’s no conflict.

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If an advisor asks himself or herself, “What’s the best thing Ican do to benefit myself and my firm?” the answer would be thehigher character choice of making the client the center of all thatthey do.

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But many advisors feel they were succeeding without therule and don’t want it.

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When I started giving speeches in ethics around the world,people wanted to know, “What’s in it for me?” That’s an easyquestion to answer if you take a long-term view: The high-charactercourse of action is the profitable one.

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Advisors who work on commission are upset about therule.

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Why not avoid even the perception of impropriety by not havingany financial gain [attached to] your recommendation? That makes itpure and generates respect for the advisor.

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The BICE [best interest contract exemption] says that as long asyou disclose a conflict of interest to the client, you’re in theclear legally. But when you’ve got skin in the game, it risksclouding your judgment.

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So what could be the upshot of that?

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If a client gets even a whiff that an advisor may not be makinga recommendation in their best interest, do you think they won’ttell their wide circle of friends and associates?

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Conversely, it seems that good ethics brings goodreferrals.

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Right. The surest way to generate great buzz is by offering agreat product or service with the client in mind because then theclient will do the advertising for you. This feeds into the natureof word of mouth.

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With the internet, word of mouth is even more powerfulnowadays, I suppose.

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If you get badmouthed on the Internet, it’s there forever. Butso is good word of mouth.

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A cottage industry is developing to help people erase theirdigital footprint, but that can never be done completely. There’san electronic paper trail now where you can find out what peopleare saying about you — good, bad or indifferent.

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In your book, “The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities ofHigh-Character Employees,” you write: “Falsehood in all its formsis a poison to an honest person.” The 10 qualities you cite are:Honesty, Accountability, Care, Courage, Fairness, Gratitude,Humility, Loyalty, Patience and Presence. What are the must-havequalities for advisors?

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Honesty and accountability.

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Accountability means doing four things consistently: Keepingpromises, considering the consequences of your actions, takingresponsibility for your mistakes and making amends for thosemistakes.

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What sorts of mistakes?

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Let’s say an advisor really believes a certain investment wouldbe in my best interest, but it turns out not to be. The advisorneeds to take responsibility for that and make it right: Find abetter product for me.

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When a physician tells patients, “I made a mistake,” they areless likely to sue than if the doctor ignores them or tries tocover up the mistake.

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“Presence” is a crucial quality, you say. How does thatapply to advisors?

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They need to be fully in the moment, to be there for the clientand focused only on advancing his or her interest.

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This is more important than ever, given the fact that there’s somuch anxiety and even anger associated with the fiduciary ruleamong a certain population of advisors.

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You write that being ethical helps defuse emotionalbehavior. How so?

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There’s probably no other realm of our lives as fraught withemotion as money. When the stakes are high, our emotions can get inthe way of thinking calmly and making the best choices. Thatapplies to both advisor and client.

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The only area where the stakes could be higher is health care. Aclient-centered advisory relationship lowers the stakes in the bestpossible sense.

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How?

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Because you don’t have to worry about making a choice that mighteither help or hurt you financially as an advisor. When the clientis at the heart of what you do, you’re more likely to prosper.

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Advisors’ heavy use of jargon can make the differencebetween keeping a client or seeing them split. But why shouldn’tadvisors use jargon? It’s the shorthand of investing.

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Coming from a philosophy background, I was appalled by how oftenphilosophers use 25-cent words when a five-cent word will do. Whenfinancial advisors use jargon, they lose opportunities.

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If I sat down with an advisor who was spouting jargon, I’d say,“Thank you for your time” — because I don’t understand theseinstruments and products.

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But nothing is so complicated that [an FA] can’t break it downin language that a third-grader can grasp. Even nuclear physics orneurosurgery can be explained in very basic terms.

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How can advisors be sure that clients understand whatcould happen to a certain investment on the downside?

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They should explain it and then ask the client to repeat whatthey just told them. If what the advisor hears isn’t what they said[in words or concept], they didn’t get through well enough.

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How ethical is it for an advisor to tell clients, ”Thisinvestment would be good for you; I’m recommending it to many of myclients”?

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It’s a subtle form of pressure. The subtext is: If you don’tchoose this, you’re out of the loop — you’re not with all the otherpeople who are smart.

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It’s another thing if the client asks, “How many clients arechoosing this product?” and the advisor answers, “It’s very popularnow.”

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Short of that, it seems there’s some undue influence beingexerted.

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Are there ethical issues when clients use robo-advisorsto invest?

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For something as important as your money, why would you trustany of it to a machine?

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This is where, more than any other area of your life, you want aperson of high character focused on your interest.

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Related: See more fiduciary rule articles

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Jane Wollman Rusoff

Jane Wollman Rusoff is a ThinkAdvisor contributing editor specializing in interviews with thought leaders. She has written for ThinkAdvisor since its inception and was a contributing editor to Research magazine, a predecessor to ThinkAdvisor, starting in 1992.

Jane has received two AZBEE Awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. She has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Esquire, among numerous other publications.

Jane has written or co-authored five books, including three written with “Tonight” show creator Steve Allen. Jane was a staff editor with London Express Features and Billboard’s Merchandising Magazine. She has interviewed and profiled thousands of entertainment personalities, including Ray Charles, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep.

Jane is the founder of www.FamilyStarProductions.com.