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Advisers should still dress for success

Interesting to see Barclays amending its dress code by pulling back from free-for-all largesse to a more structured business casual look. This mirrors the trend that has seen an increasing number of companies drifting back to a more formal dress code for staff at work.

Over the years, the debate over dress code has occupied a disproportionate amount of boardroom time. It’s probably been easier for directors to thrash out the details of a major acquisitions programme than it has been for them to devise a satisfactory dress code. It sometimes seems emotions run higher over whether men should be forced to wear ties than it does over whether they should be made redundant.

And then there’s flesh. While it might be de rigueur for your average corporate banker to help himself to a pound of it when mis-selling protection policies, being exposed to a surfeit between thong and crop-top is positively pass笼p/>And this is not an ageist or a management versus workers thing. There is a surprising number of staff still in favour of dressing more formally in the business environment. Not everyone is seeking denim Shangrila.

I think Barclays is on the right track. The degree of latitude allowed in relation to how people present themselves for work can have a bearing on adherence to professional standards. And even in a non-customer facing environment, a casual attitude to dress can lead to a casual attitude to work. Result – deterioration of company image.

Some years ago I visited a major building society’s head office. As I sat in its spacious foyer the disparate modes of dress passing through the building was more akin to a building site than a building society. The staff looked a mess and this initial impression coloured my view of the organisation. I had a similar experience at a major broking firm, where staff flitting about in t-shirts looked equally shabby and unprofessional.

The trouble is that when faced with the policing of a casual dress code, managers lose all sense of proportion and propriety. One minute it’s suits and starch and the next its beads and bellies. Failure to take a sensible stand when monitoring dress code and determining what is appropriate is a common management failing.

So well done to Barclays and the others for pulling back from the brink and redefining casual as ‘business smart’ rather than ‘dress down’.

Although customers no longer expect power dressing from their financial advisers they do expect professionalism – and that invariably starts with looking the part.peter mounty


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