A CFP Approved Ethics Program That is More Than Fulfilling a Requirement

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
Wyoming Senator Alan K Simpson (As quoted in Eyewitness to Power (2001) by David Gergen)

Integrity is the most basic prerequisite to earning and retaining a client’s trust.  I have found that character is at least as important as competence in most industries and even more so in the financial services industry. I have also found that trust has the ability to accelerate or destroy any business relationship. You can spend years building trust to only have it knocked down and lost at a moment’s notice.

When I was speaking to Rita Cheng recently, she told me about her program on Ethics that her firm, Blue Ocean Global Wealth built for financial professionals and specifically CFP® professionals. While integrity is the core value at Ro Morrison & Associates I was interested to learn more about how Rita speaks on ethics and what it means to her.

Now, let’s learn a little more about Rita, what drives her, and the importance of ethics programs for financial advisors.

1. Tell me About Your Topic
We authored the ethics program to focus on several trending topics for the financial advisory community: Diminished Mental Capacity, Elder Financial Abuse, and Filial Law.

I’ve heard many people say that you cannot teach ethics. To some degree that may be true if you view ethics as more than knowing what is right and wrong, but also doing what is right. There will always be someone who knowingly violates the rules, and no matter the amount of Ethics training, they may still act unethically. I view Ethics training as not just an opportunity to teach about what is considered right and wrong, according to the CFP Board Standards, but also to talk about the responsibility of taking the correct course of action.

2. Why is it so important?
Why is it important to take a CFP Board Ethics CE course every 2 years, especially if you have been certified for a long time? For one, it is a requirement for renewal, but it is important to stay current since the Standards change regularly. Again, this Ethics CE course is not only about knowing what is right and wrong, but also knowing what to do based on the Standards.

Since CFP certification is a voluntary certification, the standards and requirements are able to be changed a lot easier and faster than regulation that governs licensures, like securities or insurance. It was not long ago that the CFP Board Standards introduced the fiduciary requirement and soon CFP Board will be updating the Standards again, currently undergoing a multi-year review of the Standards of Professional Conduct

Business Ethics refer to moral principles that guide how an individual or an entire organization behaves. Ethical awareness in business emerged in the 1960s when companies responded to the rising influence of a consumer-based society. Naturally, the same principles that determine an individual’s actions also apply to business. Acting in an ethical way requires distinguishing between “right” and “wrong”, and then making the “right” choice. Identifying unethical business practices requires a strong moral framework. Decisions may be made by individuals or groups, but whoever makes them will be influenced by the leadership and culture. The decision to commit to ethical behavior is a moral one. Professionals must decide what they think is the right course of action, which may, for example, involve rejecting decisions that would result in the larger profits. Corporate ethics help ensure that trust exists between consumers, clients, employees, executives, and stakeholders.

“You must remember that some things legally right are not morally right.”
-Abraham Lincoln [1809 – 1865]

3. What motivates you to do what you do?
Recognizing the ambiguity now facing Americans after an erosion of trust in the financial services industry, we develop education programs to support our public policy partnerships. Our goal is to create the most meaningful content and partner with organizations where, together, we can have the most impact. For me, financial planning is intellectually stimulating and emotionally gratifying. I absolutely love the positive impact that financial planning has on society.

4. Why did you choose the profession of becoming a keynote speaker?
Our Blue Ocean Strategy is Education, which underpins everything we do. We educate clients, the media, regulators, and allied professionals on the benefits of financial planning. Millions of Americans have pressing financial questions that need answers, but unfortunately, many have not had access to competent and ethical financial advice. Our collaborative approach to planning resonates with our clients’ professional advisors, including their CFP Professionals, CPAs, attorneys, and business consultants.

5. What is most important to you when it comes to speaking to an audience?
I value speaking to audiences who come with an open mind ready to learn and listen or listen and learn. So much to do and so little time: I am up for the challenge and love helping people!

6. What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?
So many people spend their health to gain wealth, only to spend their wealth to try to gain health. I definitely believe in strong mind, body, and spirit.

7. What is your philosophy towards your work?
Leaders who embrace Conscious Capitalism believe that business is good because it creates value, it’s ethical because it’s based on voluntary exchange, it’s noble because it can elevate our existence, and it’s heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. If it’s “just a job,” it’s transactional; we work a certain number of hours per week in exchange for a pre-determined salary and employee benefits. Work can also be considered a calling when we find it so meaningful to us that we derive value and satisfaction that surpasses the actual paycheck and that’s what I view my work as. Financial planning is intellectually stimulating, emotionally gratifying, and financially rewarding—and it delivers positive societal impact to our community. I wholeheartedly believe that we are truly fortunate to have found our calling and that’s what gets me excited when I get up in the mornings.

8. What do colleagues say is your best quality?
I am from a diverse multi-cultural background. I am of Chinese, Irish & Eastern European heritage. My best quality is my ability to ability connect with and relate to others. My superpowers that are a cornerstone to this quality include empathy, emotional intelligence, and discipline. I often joke that I am always competing, but only against myself. All of these qualities afford me mindfulness, which I define as being aware of our own and others’ emotions. This helps you focus on the present moment and connect with authenticity. When we are mindful, we create better solutions and solve problems peacefully. Mindfulness can also be described as being attentive while refraining from passing judgment.

9. Who has inspired you in your life and why?
I often refer to myself as ABC, for American-born Chinese. My father immigrated to the US from China via Taiwan. As the oldest child in my family, I assumed more responsibility, while also benefitted from more time with my father before he assumed more leadership responsibility at IBM. My dad ensured that I had a strong foundation in math and is my inspiration for pursuing a career in financial planning. Under his tutelage, I learned how to use a financial calculator, read Value Line, and crack a safe to retrieve family financial documents before I started middle school. He was a planner at heart and always made sure that I knew, even at a young age, what to do for the family if anything ever happened to him. I thought all young girls learned these things. This came full circle when I insisted that my parents plan for the unexpected. I encouraged my parents to purchase long-term care insurance before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. We cover topics like Longevity Risk, Diminished Mental Capacity, and Elder Financial Abuse in our Ethics CE program. They are near and dear to my heart because of my personal experience caregiving for my late father. Love you dad – you are my inspiration!

10. How do you stay current?
I read the right publications and dedicate my time to learning so that I can help my clients make the most informed decisions. All three of my children swim, so I spend many hours at the pool. I use this time to stay current.

11. What’s your favorite website and why?
I visit Quiet Revolution (https://www.quietrev.com) every day. For me, no day is complete without reading a story, essay or article from this site. Quiet Revolution LLC is a privately owned, mission-based, for-profit, American company formed with a stated mission “to unlock the power of introverts for the benefit of us all”.

12. What motivates you and what doesn’t?
Being purposeful, helping advisors serve their clients better through education, and ensuring that families stay on the road to financial independence.

13. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I enjoy intense and challenging dance fitness to Latin music. With a name like Marguerita Maria, you have love salsa, samba, rumba, and merengue. I also love kickboxing as it’s so empowering. I begin every day with a Matcha Green Tea Latte.

To learn more about Rita Cheng and her programs, click here. If you are interested in booking her for an upcoming event, we would be more than happy to set up a call with you and Rita to discuss how she best fits your needs. Please call Chris at 612-747-6200 or email him at chris.dungworth@rmaconnect.com.

© 2023 Ro Morrison & Assoc.