Ethics The Trusted Adviser




It is a well known fact that the higher up an individual is situated in an organisation the lonelier they are. Not least because the boss is seen by his staff as all knowing and able to address any issue. The question of loss of face before the staff stops many bosses consulting the opinion of their staff. The same issue faced monarchs in the past which led to the creation of the role of court jester and confidant able to tell the king the truth. In more modern times the profession of trusted adviser has developed. The trusted adviser is a person who is not drawn into corporate intrigues and is not involved in the rat race, does not get involved in office politics and can form an objective viewpoint.


What are the characteristics therefore of a trusted adviser and what does the title mean? This is a bit like describing an elephant, everyone knows what an elephant looks like but few can clearly describe one. With a trusted adviser it is in fact easier to identify a professional who is not in a trusted adviser as he lacks one or more characteristics. Below we define those characteristics. PKGT AUDYT in selecting members is guided by five areas – knowledge and experience, personality, ethical behaviour, skills and overriding quality. Our members need to display a proven track record of all five.


As the name trusted adviser suggests there are two basic elements of being a trusted adviser. Firstly someone who is trusted is someone in whom we place trust, who has earnt our trust and whom we believe will act in our own rather than their own best interest. Secondly a trusted adviser does what the second part of the name implies. They are not just technical experts in their own field but are able to bring all their 

knowledge and experience together in order to give professional advice which can be implemented in real life. Most often the trusted adviser will have developed their skills working as an apprentice alongside an experienced mentor/ craftsman.


What then are the particular characteristics which a trusted adviser should posses.



  • They are an expert in their own particular field be it accountant, property consultant or lawyer consultant. Which does not mean that they can instantly recall all possible facts and figures. A trusted adviser is a person who knows what he does not immediately know and knows where or from whom to find the missing knowledge. What is key is that they can identify and bring together all the knowledge relevant when addressing a particular issue.
  • Possesses a wide range of experience. Knowledge acquired needs to have been applied over a large number of years which allows the adviser to assess what is possible, what is practical in a given situation and what has a chance of success.
  • Aside from a depth of knowledge in his own field a trusted adviser will have gained an overall understanding of the business environment. Without such knowledge a person is simply a technical expert. In order to be a trusted adviser it is necessary to be able to place particular solutions in the overall context of a given business.
  • Possesses a wide circle of acquaintances and contacts. Not least in order to be able to recommend consultants in other fields of expertise and to give the client access to new potential customers and suppliers.
  • Has experience of working with people from a wide range of backgrounds and at all levels within an organisation. Many advisers acquire a professional arrogance „I know best”. Accepting that a business does NOT employ surplus or useless staff the trusted adviser must be able to relate to ALL people within an organisation. The trusted adviser must be able to gain the confidence of all who can provide him with information and who could be affected by what they recommend.
  • Constantly refreshes and updates their knowledge and experience in both structured and ad hoc professional development programmes. As the world changes the trusted adviser must develop accordingly in order to be „ahead of the game”.


  • A trusted adviser can both listen and more importantly hear what is being said to them. It is fundamental that the trusted adviser does not immediately jump to conclusions without having given the other person time to explain what they actually want to say. It is obvious, but often forgotten, that the client will know more about their business than the adviser. A good adviser will, by listening, hearing and asking probing questions elicit from the client information of which the client themselves was not consciously aware. The trusted adviser should always be aware that the client may have no one else with whom to share his fears and aspirations.
  • Knows when he is out of his depth and needs to call in the assistance of other trusted advisers or technical experts. No one is able to master all knowledge and skills. The trusted adviser must be humble when assessing his own capabilities. In many instances the trusted adviser will become a personal adviser/ confessor to the client often on the borderline of psychological issues which may require recommending professional counselling.
  • A trusted adviser cannot be successful if they are not a team player. In order to implement agreed upon proposals the trusted adviser will need to work alongside other advisers as well as the client and their staff.
  • Identifies with the aims and aspirations of the client as well as their business sector. In order to be effective the trusted adviser must see the client’s success as his own success. Without emotional engagement the trusted adviser will not be able to identify with what it is the client actually wants.
  • Has a story to tell and speaks and writes intelligently and in a captivating manner. In communication a trusted adviser displays a passion and deep interest in the subject matter.
  • The trusted adviser finds joy and satisfaction in what they do.” Work is only work when you would rather be doing something else”. It is difficult to imagine a trusted adviser being successful if they are just „going through the motions”.


  • Possesses both analytical and intuitive („gut feel”) skills. It is now well known that the human brain is divided into two hemispheres. It is possible to acquire and develop analytical skills. However it is intuition which allows the trusted adviser to draw on all their knowledge and experience, stored in the sub conscious part of the brain. In many cultures intuition is viewed as a female characteristic which is of course why the Americans use gut feel to describe the process of proposing an answer which cannot immediately be justified analytically.
  • A trusted adviser is able to step into the shoes of the client. Without empathy an adviser can never gain a client’s full trust.
  • Supports the client but also asks difficult and sometimes awkward questions. Posing questions which force the client to review their beliefs and assumptions in the light of new facts or changes in circumstances. An adviser who merely agrees with the client cannot add any value.
  • Is able to identify possible conflicts of interest and counteract them. In particular a trusted adviser can immediately identify where acting in a clients interest will conflict with their own (for instance proposing a service which is expensive but of little value to the client).
  • Is able to formulate problems clearly, identify possible solutions and communicate these in a clear and understandable manner. In particular the trusted adviser avoids professional jargon designed by the less able to create an artificial air of superiority. The trusted adviser speaks the same language as the client otherwise even the best advise risks being misinterpreted.


  • Maintains full confidentiality of information gained about clients. As the relationship develops a trusted adviser will of course gain more and more commercially confidential information. The trusted adviser is always on his guard when dealing with third parties who may seek inside information or confirmation of rumours.
  • Is non judgmental and non partisan. In particular a trusted adviser does not allow himself to be drawn into internal conflicts nor office politics.
  • Is guided by the highest ethical principles and guidelines both as these apply to his own professional area of expertise and to general business practise. In particular the trusted adviser does not seek ways of working „around” difficult rules and regulations.
  • Always acts in the clients best interests even when doing so could be against his own best interests. This does not mean of course that the trusted adviser accepts low fees. What it does mean is that the trusted adviser refuses to undertake work which is of low value to the client.
  • Provides services of consistently exceptional value. Until an adviser has gained a string of successes they remain a mere consultant.


  • Is able to present in a clear and coherent manner advise which is supported by facts. The trusted adviser must asses and advise all the risks which are inherent to the given proposal. More importantly the trusted adviser is able to map out the implementation process and where appropriate oversee the implementation.
  • A trusted adviser will, where appropriate, be guided purely by intuition. In such a situation the trusted adviser will make clear to the client that they cannot substantiate the advise and must provide all evidence which could negate the advise.
  • Is able at all times to place any advise given in the context of the whole business. The difference between a technical expert and a trusted adviser rests in this ability to provide solutions addressing the business as a whole and not just a particular subject.
  • If a trusted adviser does not know something he will always know someone who does and whom they in turn trust. A true trusted adviser does nor work in a vacuum but is part of a wider circle of trusted advisers across all areas of expertise.
  • A true trusted adviser works on building a long term relationship with clients rather than achieving quick results. Only over a longer period of time can trust be built, knowledge gained, a relationship built and long term success achieved.


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