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Ethics are increasingly important to investment professionals’ careers, new CFA UK survey reveals

  • Against backdrop of global attention on professional conduct, this becomes key area of concern for UK investment professionals
  • Investment professionals overwhelmingly want to work for a firm that acts in an ethical manner and demonstrates values aligned with their own 

CFA UK has today published the results of its annual Ethics Survey, the only tracker of views on ethics across the UK’s investment profession. Now in its sixth year, the survey highlights the challenges experienced by investment professionals, as well as the issues they consider most important.

The 2018 survey reveals that ethics and professionalism are playing an increasingly significant role in investment professionals’ careers and influencing where they want to work. Evaluating the importance of various issues when considering accepting a role at a new firm, nearly two thirds of respondents (63%) awarded a score of 10/10 for the firm acting in an ethical manner in interactions with themselves and with clients, compared to 58% last year. Over half (51%) also awarded 10/10 for the firm demonstrating values aligned with theirs, rising from 46% last year, and 44% additionally attributed the same importance to the firm being forthright in disclosing and managing conflicts of interest, jumping from 34% in 2017.

The survey also indicates that ethics continue to be core to UK investment professionals’ daily practices. Fifty-three percent of respondents noted that they think about the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Professional Standards regularly during the course of their work. This code is the ethical benchmark for the investment profession around the globe, regardless of job title, cultural differences, or local laws.

Nevertheless, there has been a shift in the elements of the Code and Standards to which investment professionals find it most difficult to adhere. Whereas in 2017 the greatest challenge for respondents was in the field of conflicts of interest (including disclosure of conflicts, priority of transactions and referral fees), this year professionalism (including knowledge of the law, independence and objectivity, misrepresentation and misconduct) has now overtaken as the primary concern, with 39% of respondents finding this challenging in the past 12 months. Equally, a greater proportion of investment professionals surveyed are now finding issues related to the integrity of capital markets challenging, rising from 11% to 16% year-on-year.

According to those working in the UK industry, a gap also remains between the regard in which the investment profession is held by its clients, and how it is perceived by society more generally. Respondents awarded a weighted average score of 7/10 for clients (where 10/10 indicates the profession being held in extremely high regard) and 5/10 for society more broadly.

Says Will Goodhart, chief executive of CFA UK:

“In last year’s survey, ahead of the implementation of MiFID II, it was not that surprising that our members were most concerned with issues around conflicts of interest. This year has seen the global stage dominated by wider discussions about professionalism and conduct and these issues have likewise drawn our members’ attention.

Our aim is to ensure that investment professionals are fully cognisant of the breadth of ethical issues and conduct themselves in line with the highest professional standard. It’s pleasing and promising that our members think about ethics regularly in the course of their work and particularly when it comes to decisions about their career path. This year’s results reflect a genuine drive from UK investment professionals to better the industry.”