Ask the Ethicist

Dan Candura's final column contains his best advice for acting ethically

In his first Ask the Ethicist column, he set out what he calls the essential truth of ethics: 'We know what is right if we stop to give it some thought'

Nov 30, 2018 @ 1:52 pm

By Dan Candura

A little over three years ago, InvestmentNews approached me about writing this column. The invitation came after a major piece on practice succession in which I was featured as an example of what not to do as you contemplate the waning of your career. That is: Think about it but don't act.

Earlier that year I learned that I had stage 4 prostate cancer that couldn't be removed but could be treated. I came to the attention of the good people here at InvestmentNews because I was upfront with my clients concerning my health in a blog that I published. I felt ethically obligated to inform my clients that the financial adviser they chose just might not be as accessible as they expected.

For me it was the right thing to do. I didn't anticipate that doing the right thing would be exceptional in any way. I was wrong. I learned later that most advisers would not have shared that information with their clients.

My initial course of treatments involved radiation and hormone therapy. They slowed the cancer growth but did not eliminate it. Recently, I learned the cancer has spread to the bones in my legs and possibly to my lungs as well. I'll need further testing to determine if the growths in my lungs are prostate cancer or something else.

My team of doctors at Dana Farber in Boston began a new round of hormone therapy to inhibit the growth of existing tumors. I have complete faith in them and know that I am getting the best care possible, but there are side effects. I tire easily. My strength is waning. Sometimes I experience sudden and uncontrollable gastric episodes. I have trouble concentrating and completing tasks in a timely manner.

To deal with these effects, I decided to reduce the number of clients that I serve. I no longer accept new clients and I've limited my practice to a small group who pay a monthly subscription fee. For the rest, I asked my NAPFA colleagues for help. More than a dozen fee-only financial planners allowed me to post profiles of their practices on my website so clients can choose someone else who meets their needs.

And, I announced a sunset date for all client services in September 2019 to give everyone time to evaluate options. I made a commitment to my clients three years ago to keep them informed about how my health would impact them, and this is my best effort to meet that commitment.

I want to continue to provide in-person and webinar-based ethics training for CFP professionals into 2019. I enjoy traveling around the U.S. and overseas to share ethics knowledge with others, but my overall health will determine whether or not I can do this after next year.

(More: The case for more prominently disclosing compensation and conflicts of interest)

Finally, I decided to retire from the Ask the Ethicist column with this issue. I can no longer commit to meeting the monthly deadline for new and interesting content.

In my first column in this space, I wrote that ethics was mostly about just doing the right thing and that we know what is right if we stop to give it some thought. I believe that this is the essential truth of ethics.

So to wrap things up, I'd like to close the column by listing some things you can do to make sure that you act ethically in your practice.

• Act in the best interest of your client — always.

• Tell your clients the truth and nothing but the truth.

• Get help when you don't know the answer. No BS ever.

• Make sure your firm aligns with your values.

• Allow nothing to interfere with your duty to place your clients' interest ahead of everything else.

• Give your clients the best advice you can every time.

• Treat everyone the way you want them to treat you.

• Be happy. If you cannot be happy in your work, find work in which you can be happy.

• Share your knowledge.

• Learn from others.

• Be kind.

Thanks for the privilege of sharing my thoughts with you over the last few years.

(More: Ask the Ethicist: What happens when an adviser gets caught in the middle of divorcing clients?) ?

Dan Candura is founder of the education and consulting firm Candura Group.

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