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What makes a profession trustworthy? In August 2020 the chair of ASIC, James Shipton, addressed a similar question about the financial system and corporations in an ANZSOG/National Regulators Community of Practice (NRCoP) webinar on Regulation, Trust and Social Licence. He identified the three key contributors to trustworthiness as:

  • competence –having the right skills and knowledge to do the job.
  • care –attention and consideration applied to doing something correctly and avoiding risk, harm or damage for the recipient.
  • ethics –doing the right thing, even when no one else is watching.

To put it another way, professions are trusted to care for us competently and to have the public interest at heart. As consumers of professional services, we are entitled to believe that professionals will reliably and ably act in our best interests.

For professions to be effective, they must maintain the community’s trust. This is commonly achieved through peer accountability and regulation of the competence, conduct and culture of the profession in accordance with community expectations.

Historically, associations have been primary regulators of their professions through ‘self-regulation’. In recent times, however, and often in response to failures of competence, conduct and culture leading to consumer harms, governments have stepped in and ‘co-regulation’ has become prevalent.  A recent ANZSOG/NRCoP webinar on this topic discusses how and why professions are regulated.

The critical question is: what steps can regulators of a profession - associations, employers, the state, or a combination thereof – take to earn and catalyse trust?

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