I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:
Gas chambers built by learned engineers.
Children poisoned by educated physicians.
Infants killed by trained nurses.
Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.
Haim Gott, 1972
This poem was shared in my children’s school Magazine this month, and whilst obviously aimed at school level educators totally caught my attention in relation to what Financial Advice is going through at the moment.
“Learned monsters” – What has been coming out at the Royal Commission, the evidence of everyday people’s lives being ruined by “advice” and other services from people who should know better and are in a position of trust and authority is instantly brought to mind.
Whilst not trying to belittle the horrors experienced by the victims of “skilled psychopaths” during World War II – Is what is going on in Financial Services right now a modern (and less violent) version of this type of rampant, self-serving attack on everyday people?
People in charge who have their own agendas, who have somehow convinced themselves they have every right to do whatever it takes to make what they want happen? And then manage to convince the people they are in charge of that it is normal and expected and necessary to act in the way that they have?
Then when they are caught out – deny; resign and run; try to justify, try to normalise; blame someone else; blame the victims; handball responsibility; pretend nothing happened?
People are scared now. Scared to trust anyone. And the authorities apparent answer to this problem? More education.
I am all for being better educated in our industry. I believe it is necessary and practical to change the requirements to improve the future and assist some trust to return. But where is the focus and credit for the experience and education that experienced advisers already have and who are qualified based on the education available when they started?
Do we really believe that more education for everyone without exceptions will make the problems go away? It is only going to make a lot of the experienced advisers go away.
Will it stop our industry from having learned monsters and skilled psychopaths? I don’t think it will.
I want to see proper punishment for the people in charge of what has been going wrong. Not just the ones down the ladder doing as they are taught and instructed (often forced against their will) to do, but the ones in charge. These “leaders” shouldn’t get to lose a bonus (above their massive base salary) or resign and have a break (only to show up again in a while with another high-paying job). They should be forced to see clearly and FIX the problems and the people that their organisations have damaged.
And they should be punished within every inch of the law to deter others from just taking their place.
Then we need to focus on what the causes were of normalising this kind of behaviour. Lack of a degree? I don’t think so.
The people in charge of financial services organisations (of all types) need to be made to do their time actually working with the people their organisations employ and serve. The people legislating for financial services should do the same, or at least be made to listen to consultants on their teams who have done the same.
One of the large burger franchises trains their managers by making them learn and work in every role in the store. They have to learn to be the cleaner, the burger maker, customer service, in the storeroom. This training is based on the belief that you can’t understand how to manage the staff and customer outcomes if you haven’t done it and don’t know what is involved. They know this, even though a dud burger probably won’t ruin a life like bad advice can.
I believe the people who are in the client facing roles and have been for a long time deserve credit for the efforts they have put in. I believe these people are the ones who are less likely to become the ‘learned monsters’ as they face the people they are working for and learnt what the outcomes of good and bad advice are likely to be.
I think we can all learn more from education, and we should. But it is not going to solve the problem, and stop the consumers of our industry being treated like opportunities instead of working partners, ripped off and treated badly. We need monitoring, supervision, education, timely and appropriate action for problems and we need grounding.
We need to focus on what we are meant to be helping people achieve first and foremost. Whatever that takes.
We need to help financial advice and financial services “become human” again.