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What’s trust got to do with it?

15 April 2016

In the latest of his regular articles for Professional Paraplanner, Dan Atkinson, senior technical consultant at EQ Investors, looks at establishing trust in a professional relationship.

Some of you will have heard me share about the lessons that we can learn from nursing as we consider a Paraplanning Standard. For me the two key lessons were:

Trust – what they do requires trust from both the patient and the medical team. Paraplanners need to be trusted by our clients and those involved in delivery.
Evidence based – what they do is informed by research and their competence is demonstrated by collection of evidence. What we do should be based on sound research using the latest thinking backed up by evidence.

In their professional standards groups of skills/requirements are divided up with statements that all start with the phrase “People can trust the adult nursing student to…”. Let’s think about this phrase “people can trust the…” and see what we can apply to ourselves.


A lot has been written about trust and I’m not going to prattle on about ‘the trust equation’. Most people know what trust is even if this is just to know who/what they don’t trust! Trust is like a china vase; it’s beautiful to behold, took great care and effort to make, and can be destroyed in a moment by rough handling.
Trust can be defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something ( This tells us that to an extent trust is subjective – it’s about our perception of someone or something. However there is also an objective truth to it, in what we will trust.
Trustworthiness (and indeed untrustworthiness) is demonstrated by our behaviour (how), our actions (what) and our motives (why). If there is falseness about any of this then trust will either be weak, or fail completely. Trust is earned.

Team-based approach

In nursing the most important person is the patient. It is their health that is being treated or reviewed. They are the person being poked, prodded, injected or operated on. This might even be a life and death situation. The patient needs to have complete confidence that those caring for them can be trusted.
However, if this was the extent of the trust relationship the professional standards would say “The patient can trust the…” when they are setting out these principles. The issue of trust is actually much wider and covers everyone involved in the care of the patient (as well as the patient). Medicine works best using a team-based approach to care.
The team will include a wide range of different roles and skills such as doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, pharmacists and porters. Each role is different and important and each part of the team needs to trust the others. By working together they can combine their knowledge, experience, skills and strengths to achieve the best outcomes for their patients. However the team will be ineffective if they do not trust each other.

The trusted professional

I would argue that financial planning is similar to medicine in this respect. Ultimately the most important person is the client. We are helping them to identify and achieve their objectives; it’s not quite life and death, but it is still important. What we do has a direct impact on clients achieving their objectives – in effect being able to live the life they want, without fear of their money running out, tax trauma or leaving loved ones in the financial lurch. Clients need to be able to trust that the people they are coming to can be trusted.
Trust in financial planning does not end with the client. Everyone involved in the planning/advice process needs to have mutual trust. If an adviser does not trust a Paraplanner’s ability to produce accurate reports they will not be able to focus on delivering the ‘client experience’. If a Paraplanner does not feel that they can trust the work that an administrator has done then they will be forever checking and duplicating. None of this serves the client or the business. The client gets a lousy experience and the business runs with higher costs. It either costs the client (more money and worse service) or it costs the business (the client walks).

When a trust-based team of financial planning professionals (paraplanners, planners, and administrators) works together, we don’t just get ‘good’ outcomes – we get awesome. The client gets ‘wowed’ and the business flourishes because people want to work there and want to be served by people in that environment.

My challenge to you is this: Do you deserve to be trusted? Will you commit to working at the highest standards of trust with the most trustworthy of colleagues? Will you inspire them and encourage an environment of awesomeness? And if not, why not?

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