Mar 25, 2015 2 min read

How good are you at ethics? Are you sure? Is it enough?

Insurance is full of good people. Yet when you add up the cumulative impact of all those occasions when policies are designed, priced and distributed, a disconnect appears. If we are all as good as we think we are, then a great many questions about trust in insurance would just never arise. So what might be behind that disconnect?

The reality is that good people can make bad choices: maybe just once, perhaps as a pattern or inadvertently. It could be a conflict of interest that is ignored, a question of suitability that isn’t raised, or some lavish hospitality too close to a procurement decision. And it’s the cumulative impact of all those bad choices, rather than the aberrant behaviour of some ‘bad apples’, that lies behind the low levels of public trust in the sector.

If we are not all as good as we think we are, then the obvious question that should strike each of us is: ‘does that mean me, and if it does, by how much am I falling short?’ That’s when it’s very helpful to have access to some way of assessing how much we know about ‘ethics and insurance’ and how that compares with what we should know about it.

And such assessments will become more important over the next few years, as the regulators introduce their ‘senior insurance managers regime’, with its key pillars of personal responsibility and firms’ own assessments of its peoples’ ’honest and integrity’.

And clearly, the more senior you are within a firm, the greater should be not just your knowledge of ‘ethics and insurance’, but equally important, your ability to discuss, analyse, direct and oversee the ethical dimension of your firm’s business.

So here’s an outline of what people working in insurance can be aiming for: five levels of what we might call ‘ethical capacity’.

  • Employees – you can demonstrate awareness of ethical issues in your area of work and can discuss these in relation to personal beliefs and corporate values;
  • Supervisors – you’re aware of the wider ethical implications of your sphere of responsibility and are able to debate issues in relation to their ethical dimensions;
  • Managers – you’re familiar with the ethical responsibilities of your role and of professional codes of conduct (even if you’re not a member), and can incorporate a critical ethical dimension into a major piece of work;
  • Directors – you have the awareness and ability to manage the implications of ethical dilemmas and can work proactively with others to formulate solutions;
  • Senior Executives – you can analyse, manage and oversee the implications of ethical dilemmas and can work pro-actively with others to formulate structural solutions.

And the only way to know if you have the right level of ‘ethical capacity’ for your particular role within your firm is to carry out some form of ethical assessment. I’m a fan of self assessments, for I like being able to check for myself how much I know about something, work out where I need to learn more, and to then get on and do so. There’s always something we can learn, and when it comes to ethics and insurance, that certainly holds true.

Duncan Minty
Duncan Minty
Duncan has been researching and writing about ethics in insurance for over 20 years. As a Chartered Insurance Practitioner, he combines market knowledge with a strong and independent radar on ethics.
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