Code of Conduct

Background

The Family Business Consultants Network (FBCN) is a select group of professionals who work with family businesses, and with people associated with family businesses. 

Our members recognise that the unique issues and challenges faced by family business people rarely respond well to standard professional approaches, and that to produce optimal outcomes we need to deliver “most appropriate” services. 

This Code defines and assures the nature, quality and effectiveness of that work.   

Application & Enforcement

The Code applies to all FBCN advisers engaged in family-sensitive advisory work.  Serious breaches may lead to censure and/or expulsion from the network.

The Family Business Difference

Family businesses, and associated individuals, are affected by a greater diversity of interconnected issues, needs and interests than ordinary businesses.  The advice they need can range from personal/human (“soft”) to commercial/technical (“hard”), or to any combination thereof (“complex”). 

The FBCN Difference

FBCN advisers work collaboratively and constructively to produce outcomes that address the needs of individuals, families AND businesses.  This often demands a multi-staged, multi-disciplined approach, using like-minded advisers from a range of different disciplines. 

Each assignment is treated as a project that gets its own lead adviser to plan, facilitate and, where necessary, co-ordinate a multi-skilled adviser team response.

Our difference lies in the way we avoid being adversarial.  We’re there to solve problems and deliver solutions, not to create or fight battles.  Unfortunately, some advisers compound problems, rather than helping to provide solutions.   

The most efficient processes have FBCN advisers working on all sides of the table.

Code of Ethical and Professional Conduct 

Throughout each and every assignment, FBCN advisers must:

  • Apply the values of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and reliability.
  • Avoid being adversarial:  approach each assignment as a problem to be solved, not as a battle to be fought.      
  • Always, and at all times, put the clients’ interests first.     
  • Really understand the people and the problem before acting.   
  • Collaborate with, or refer clients on to more suitable advisers if they’re not the best person for the task in hand.
  • In the family context be everyone’s friend, and nobody’s advocate.
  • Avoid professional paternalism. 
  • Apply the “consenting adult principle”:  ensure that clients understand the potential consequences of their decisions, and then help them to make and implement whatever (viable) decisions seem best to them.

Code of Professional Conduct

The following rules are mandatory for all FBCN members:

1.  The Engagement

All engagements must be discussed, explained and evidenced in comprehensible English to ensure that everybody understands their commitments and expectations. 

FBCN advisers must treat everybody with respect, fairness and equality regardless of their race, creed, colour, homeland origin, religion, gender, age, marital status, sexual preference, physical condition, and/or appearance.

2.  The Adviser : Client (Trusting) Relationship

Most family business advisory work requires high levels of trust between advisers and clients.  Trust is built on these foundations:

a) Honesty & Integrity

Honesty requires advisers to present their facts, opinions and expectations as accurately as possible. 

Integrity requires advisers to do the right thing by their clients, and others. 

FBCN advisers must:

  • Describe their education, training, experience, skills, expertise, success rate and professional credentials with honesty and reasonable accuracy.
  • Diagnose the client’s current and anticipated needs with honesty, and tailor their services to respond to those needs as efficiently and cost effectively as possible, throughout the engagement.
  • Provide clients with honest opinions and comprehensive, relevant and accurate information to facilitate informed decision making.
  • Undertake only engagements that they honestly and reasonably justifiably believe lie within the boundaries of their professional and practical competencies.
  • Openly and honestly disclose any serious concerns they have, or should have, concerning their ability to undertake, or continue with, an engagement.

b) Client Priority

Client Priority requires advisers to place their clients’ interests above their own within the framework of an engagement. 

FBCN advisers must:

  • Strive to achieve best possible outcomes for their clients under all the circumstances.
  • Promptly involve other advisers in an engagement, whenever it appears reasonably likely that this will produce a better outcome for the client.

c) Reliability

Reliability relates to performance: doing what you say you’ll do; when you say you’ll do it; how you say you’ll do it.  There should be no surprises or disappointments between client and adviser when you under-promise and over-deliver.

FBCN advisers must perform their work competently, and in accordance with their engagements as regards: content, scope, style, process, quality, timing and costs.

d) Independence, Impartiality & Objectivity

Independence:             freedom from the control or influence of others.

Impartiality:                freedom from bias or favouritism; equitable and fair.

Objectivity:                  freedom from influence caused by personal emotions, needs or prejudices; judgements and actions based on facts.

Independence and objectivity can be hard to achieve and maintain in a complex engagement involving conflicting interests.  In traditional professional engagements advisers are engaged by an identifiable client to promote their interests.  When the broader family is the “client”, there is no single interest or position to champion.

Therefore, in all family-sensitive engagements (not necessarily all technical engagements) FBCN requires Impartiality, rather than IndependenceThe adviser should be a friend to everyone … and an advocate for no one.

FBCN advisers must:

  • Act impartially, fairly and professionally towards all stakeholders, at all times.
  • Be free of real or perceived conflicts of interest that could reasonably raise doubts about their impartiality and objectivity. 
  • Disclose the possibility of any potential conflicts of interest – past, present or future – to all relevant parties.
  • Avoid advocating the interests of any stakeholder(s) against any others.        

d) Trustworthiness – the Trusted Adviser

Trusted advisers enjoy closer relationships with their clients than normal professional relationships.  

FBCN advisers must:

  • Be credible, reliable and trustworthy, and do everything they reasonably can to stay that way.
  • Be courageous and willing to work with their clients on the toughest issues, even when that involves a degree of risk.  

e) Confidentiality

Confidential Information is provided to an adviser in the expectation it will not be divulged to others without express authorisation. 

FBCN advisers must:

  • Treat all sensitive information obtained during the course of an engagement as confidential, unless they are told otherwise.
  • Not divulge any confidential information to unauthorised parties.
  • Not use any confidential information obtained during the course of an engagement for any purpose other than that for which the information was provided.