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Investment professionals must focus on clients over profits – CFA Institute

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Investment management professionals should be less focused on their employers’ profits and more on solving their clients’ problems, the head of the CFA Institute has said.

Chief executive and president Paul Smith said both investment and asset managers should focus on providing client services rather than the overall success of the company.

Smith, who has led the institute since January, said the investment industry also suffered from a lack of trust from the public, as “there is not enough focus on properly pricing products”, or on investor protection.

“In the same way the main focus for doctors is their patient’s health, the goal of investment management professionals should be solving their clients’ problems, rather than maximising profits for their firms,” he said.

The CFA Institute provides education for investment/asset managers and has drafted a code of ethics charter holders are told to adhere to when managing money for clients.

“We need better-structured products and better incentives,” Smith said, adding that fee structures are skewed towards the interests of managers.

He also believes the industry has failed to present itself correctly to regulators, and that this will drive more regulation for asset managers.

“We have not set the bar high enough,” he said. “As a result, the drift of regulation is such that making money will become more difficult.”

Smith did concede that if profit-making became harder for asset managers and the broader financial services industry, the pace of global economic growth may slow down.

He also raised concerns about the image of the industry to graduates, as well as gender balance and diversity within the industry.

The institute said it wanted to focus on bringing greater gender diversity into the industry in the long term, citing increasing evidence that diversity within asset management firms may be beneficial to end investors.

The investment management industry, Smith added, is resisting modernisation and the introduction of technology overall.

“Regulators should enable the adoption of technology,” he said.  

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