Trustee best practice – work to a defined standard

Published September 14, 2017

Three years ago, I interviewed professional trustees on the challenges of trusteeship.  A common issue was seen to be the lack of practical information on trustee best practice.

Digging deeper, it became clearer that professional advisers needed something they could point to as best practice.  Something to show co-trustees, or benchmark from.

That led to the development of a complimentary guide for non-professional trustees setting out good practices in 21 areas of trust management (you can grab a copy here).

Standards of practice are particularly important for professional trustees.

When you offer services professionally, you’re generally held to a higher standard of care.  That’s because you’re expected to hold special knowledge or experience.

That being the case, when you take responsibility for other people’s property (for example, as trustee), you want things to be running right.  It’s about being prudent professionally.

Similarly, when you’re held to a higher standard of care professionally, you know the commercial risks can be greater if things go wrong.

Having clearly defined and documented standards of practice can help mitigate that risk.

The starting point is how you position your professional services in the marketplace.  Positioning is like putting a stake in the ground for what you stand for professionally.

For professional trustees, a documented set of practices and policy will help reinforce your positioning.  They become a reference point for:

  • How to work consistently to an agreed standard
  • Communicating value and setting expectations
  • Measuring and reporting on performance
  • Inducting and developing staff
  • Educating co-trustees and beneficiaries

I’ve found very few professional trustees have defined standards of practice.  As the old saying goes “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”.

What stake will you put in the ground for best practice?

Defining what you stand for (or won’t stand for), is a good place to think from.  Clear standards of care and practice provide a point of distinction for professional firms.

They not only raise the bar for the way services are delivered, they improve the delivery of outcomes to clients.

When you’re unlocking commercial value, that’s got to be a win/win.

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