Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SIO Annual Advisors Dinner in Vancouver

by Christie Stephenson, Vancouver correspondent

On January 19th, the Social Investment Organization (SIO) hosted its annual Advisors Dinner in Vancouver. Held at Al Porto Ristorante in Vancouver’s historic Gastown district, the event was sponsored by Acuity, Ethical Funds, IA Clarington Investments, Meritas Mutual Funds, and RBC Asset Management. The event was one of seven advisor dinners taking place in cities across the country during January and February.

Meritas’ Brian Barsness said he was struck by the growth and excitement around the annual dinners, contrasting the first he’d attended with only a half dozen advisors to this year’s crowd of around 50 attendees. NEI’s Rob Torrance reported he looked forward to attending the dinners each year because of their “forward thinking”.

The evening’s keynote address was given by Pete Bresnahan, a former stock broker who now consults to the financial industry on ethics. He also writes a blog on business ethics and the investment industry. His topic for the evening was applying ethics to business strategy.

Mr. Bresnahan asserted that “the biggest challenge we face is not writing new laws and regulations, but rather choosing better leaders and training financial advisors to understand the implications of their behaviour in the community”. He suggested approaching this challenge by determining “how to cultivate better FAs instead of regulating them into a state of bureaucratic frustration and paralysis”. Mr. Bresnahan believes that accountability, from both from a regulatory perspective and a moral standpoint, is essential for the efficient functioning of free markets, and he expressed concern over a lack of responsibility by major players in the financial markets since the “popping of the leverage bubble on Wall Street”. He concluded that the “crisis which currently besieges the global economy may provide the opportunity for the traditions of the free market economic system to adapt a more balanced approach” and suggested that this “must take root at the level of the individual pursuing excellence”.

Vancity’s Petra Remy reported that she appreciated Mr. Bresnahan’s talk for being “on the ground”.

The SIO's Andrika Boshyk noted that the lingering effects of the financial crisis that began in 2008 have put a spotlight on ethics in the financial services industry. She concluded that this underscores once again the importance of investors' trust in the competence and professional ethics of their advisors. As a result, she called Mr. Bresnahan's presentation a "timely contribution for the SRI community".

1 comment:

  1. Well done Pete! I completely agree that legislation is not the real answer. The real answer obviously lies in the ethics of the individual.

    However, it is hard to see how individual advisors can become more ethical when their business and political leadership is dominated by individual's whose primary values are greed and status--as Dr. Paul Ray indicates in his seminal research on the values of North Americans.

    It simply requires a new values set for all of society, and fortunately, that is occurring with what Dr. Ray calls, the 'Cultural Creatives.'

    Thanks, Christie, for this post.

    Best wishes, Ron