One of the interesting arguments coming out of Mariana Mazzucato’s The Big Con is that because consulting firms are reliant on a continued stream of business from their clients, there is a conflict of interest as they would not be interested to help clients build the capability to solve problems by themselves.
I’m concerned about this argument because that argument can be made in many other situation such as a lawyer not wanting to help client get out of legal trouble or doctor not desiring his patients to recover, etc. It opens a whole can of worms and at the end of the day, boils down to a matter of professional ethics and the standards we need to uphold within the industry and sector.
I’ve an episode in Mondo Gondo about the financial advisory industry’s conflict of interest. Interestingly, Christopher Tan from Providend revisited this topic again recently. This matter of commission-induced conflict of interest underlies his motivation in founding of his firm. Yet he still struggles with the inherent tension across:
- the need to make money,
- the need to motivate and retain his good employees as well as
- to uphold the interest of his client base.
There may be inherently some industries that are better off for the customers if they were not subject to complete free market type conditions.
Perhaps consulting firms should all continue to stay in the form of partnerships and not allowed to get too big. Likewise, financial advisory might be better off as an industry of freelancing individuals. They can be subject to strict industry and professional body standards rather than be firms operating with huge overheads.