Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

Last week, I applied Jesus’ Golden Rule (“the Rule”) to employee performance reviews. Today, we examine the Rule relative to a company’s dealings with its customers. While my comments will focus on the investment industry, the principles discussed herein are broadly applicable to other industries.

It is important to note that my former industry, like many others, is highly regulated. In a way, securities regulation is the government’s attempt to impose the Rule. In fact, were all participants in the industry motivated by the Rule, no regulation would be necessary!

Let us consider the Rule in the context of the relationship between investment advisors and their clients. In law, advisors have an obligation (“fiduciary duty”) to act in their clients’ best interests. This duty is intended to protect investors from decisions by their advisors that benefit them rather than their clients.

An obvious area of concern is activity in client accounts that is motivated primarily by commissions to the advisor rather than whether the investment is suitable for the client’s account. In fact, registered investment advisors in Canadian firms are required to have a clear understanding of their clients’ needs including their investment goals and their appetite for risk. Notwithstanding, all investment firms must have compliance departments, since not every advisor abides by these rules.

Externally imposed rules can change behaviours but not hearts.

The reality is that externally imposed rules can change behaviours but not hearts. The Rule is really a matter of the heart. Either we genuinely care for our clients or we do not. If in our hearts we are not concerned for their best interests, there is a tension between externally imposed rules and our heart attitude. In the fullness of time, that tension may lead to unethical conduct.

There are many today who confuse the message of Jesus with a list of compliance rules – what and what not to do. However, he really came to make a relationship with God possible through a “heart transplant”, as a direct result of our deciding to put him in charge of our lives. This new relationship with him, in turn, impacts how we treat others.

Confession: my behaviours do not always match my new heart – there are times when self-centredness gets the better of me! However, Jesus in his perfection always knows what is best for me and nudges me in that direction. As I listen to him, my attitudes change and my “compliance” with the Golden Rule improves. In the following passage from the Bible, the writer Paul describes this internal transformation as the renewing of our minds as our knowledge of Jesus grows.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Have you asked Jesus for a heart transplant?  Is your mind being renewed?

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.