When I joined ICAEW as a trainee accountant sometime back in the dim and distant past I signed up to a code of ethics. Like most accountants I take that code of ethics very seriously as I believe it is part of being a professional. Amongst other requirements was confidentiality. Everything is confidential so the extent that ICAEW suggest that I shouldn’t even share the names of my clients without their permission, let alone information about their business.
So it was quite a surprise when a prospective client asked me whether our conversations would be confidential. It felt a little like somebody asking whether I like tea (I’m a self-confessed tea addict). It is something so ingrained that I hadn’t even realised that lay people may not know this.
Which got me wondering what else we don’t share as we take it for granted.
We’re so busy focusing on what differentiates us from our competitors that we forget some of these other positives that are shared by many of our competitors.
Anyone can call themselves an accountant, but ‘chartered accountant’ is a protected title in law. I’m proud that I’m not just a chartered accountant but a Fellow and also an elected member of ICAEW Council helping to shape the future of the profession. But we need to make more of this.
Most professional accountancy bodies have similar codes of ethics whereas unqualified accountants or those not belonging to any professional body are not bound by any such code but dependent on the individual’s personal integrity. We’re supervised by our professional bodies so clients have recourse if they believe that we have failed to live up to those standards. We are required to undergo checks to ensure that we are ‘fit and proper’ persons. And we are also required to have professional indemnity insurance in order to protect our clients in the event that we make a mistake.
I have also signed up to a code of ethics as a member of the PSA (Professional Speaking Association) which means that I pay for copyright to use pictures on any slides so that the event organiser won’t be sued. Similarly for any music and videos I use in my talks. It’s not something that most speakers think about and they may not even realise the importance of paying royalties to the creators of those media.
What mundane things do you do instinctively to protect your clients? Can it become part of your marketing?