In the competitive landscape of the financial services sector, establishing a solid foundation for your business is essential for long-term success. One crucial element that often goes overlooked is the development of a set of company values.

While commonly associated with large corporations, the significance of values extends to small businesses, especially in financial advice firms. In this article, we will explore why creating company values is vital for financial services businesses and how to effectively implement and leverage them for maximum impact.

Why company values matter

In the financial services sector, where trust and integrity are paramount, having well-defined company values becomes even more critical. These values serve as guiding principles that shape the behaviour and decisions of everyone within the organisation. They provide a framework for ethical conduct, set the tone for interactions with clients, and establish a unique identity for your business. By articulating your values, you create a shared understanding among your team members and reinforce the principles that drive your organisation forward.

Authenticity Over Platitudes

Creating values that are real and meaningful is essential. Rather than crafting vague and clichéd statements, focus on values that reflect the core of your business and align with the aspirations and beliefs of your leadership team. In following the Code of Ethics, every financial adviser needs to “always act in a way that demonstrates, realises and promotes” the values of trustworthiness, competence, honesty, fairness and diligence.

Before you go rushing to include the industry favourites – ‘integrity’ and ‘honesty’ in your list of values, take a second thought about what those words actually mean, and whether or not they evoke an emotional response or a true connection from your team. We’d argue that you’re better to use phrases that reflect the personality and culture of your firm, to bring these qualities to life.

There’s no magic number as to how many values a firm ‘should’ have. The ‘less is more’ concept works here, since ideally, your team members should be able to remember all of your values easily. Many experts will say five to six values is ideal, and yet we often find that when we’re running a workshop, it’s really hard to strike off some values that feel important. Often, we’ll land on eight to 10, before we start getting creative and help owners to capture what’s most important into their unique set of statements, to then land on five or six that they love. We’ve also helped firms that ended up with eight perfect values – the moral of the story here is that the number is less important than the power and authenticity of your value statements. When we refined our values at Elixir, we determined that ‘do the right thing’ was our value that brought to life our commitment to integrity, fairness and equity. One of our clients, who deal mostly with farmers and whose principals were all brought up in the country chose ‘down to earth’ as their first core value.

When we work with a firm, we’ll often define the ‘values seeds’ with the principals and leadership team initially, and then involve the broader team in the process of building out these values. We note though – while the perspectives of your entire team should be considered, the final say should rest with the business principals to maintain alignment with the overall vision for the business.

How to maximise the benefits of documenting your values

Once your values are clearly articulated and documented, they become a powerful tool for enhancing various aspects of your business. There are numerous ways that you can maximise the benefits of this exercise.

Guiding behaviours and enhancing your culture: Values act as a compass, guiding your team’s daily actions and decision-making processes. They shape the behaviours and mindsets that everyone embraces, fostering a positive and productive work culture.

Expanding on your documented values by developing a comprehensive “living our values” document that clearly outlines the expected behaviours and mindsets, will create a shared understanding of how values manifest in daily operations, thus enhancing your organisational culture from within. It is crucial to involve your entire team in the design process of this document to encourage buy-in and foster a genuine understanding of what your values truly mean.

To ensure that your values remain impactful and relevant, it is important to regularly revisit the document in engaging and meaningful ways with your team. This practice keeps your values front-of-mind, serving as a guiding light for your employees in their decision-making and actions. By incorporating fun activities and discussions around your values, you create a dynamic and engaging environment that reinforces the importance of living by those values, promoting a strong and positive culture throughout your business.