Navigating the grey areas of business ethics

Putting ethics at the heart of your career

Gone are the days where corporations had the power to do everything they could as long as it was legal, to maximize shareholder profit.  Back then, companies did not need to have a larger purpose, or take on any responsibility to make the world a better place. Today is different.

The business case for ethics 

Purpose is being integrated into companies’ business objectives, and they are increasingly stepping up by showing more accountability to their employees, to customers and to society at large. Companies today are also adapting to the impact of technology on corporate reputation. In today’s information age, a company’s performance and internal policies can all be publicly available, and fair game for scrutiny by customers, prospective employees and partners. In such an environment, business ethics are more important than ever before, because all it takes is one breach to alienate a company’s stakeholders. Research from the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) suggests that companies with a clear commitment to ethical conduct consistently outperform companies that do not have such codes in place. Ethics don’t just yield a higher degree of stakeholder satisfaction; they impact a company’s bottom line.

Demystifying the grey areas of insurance

Insurance is a topic that can mystify most, so it’s all the more important that sound ethical sense is at the foundation of insurers’ and brokers’ decision-making, in order to earn and maintain customer trust. The addition of mandatory ethics training by the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario (RIBO) to its continuing education curriculum is a testament to the growing importance of this topic for brokers. 
RSA has been a long-time champion of the broker channel, and education has been a core focus of the insurer’s investment in the channel. When ethics training was made a mandatory requirement by RIBO, the insurer saw an opportunity to step up and add this content to its already-robust continuing education offering.

“We work closely with our broker partners on an ongoing basis to identify emerging areas of focus, to ensure our continuing education offering helps them navigate the increasingly complex regulatory environment they face today. We see our role as preparing brokers to address customer queries about the impact of the changing landscape on their coverage and premiums,” says Julia Carr, vice president of broker marketing and communications at RSA Canada. “We strive to always have our finger on the pulse of the industry, so we recognize that ethics is an increasingly important topic in insurance, given the nature of the role that insurers and brokers play for customers.” 
Topics covered in the ethics webinar developed by RSA include the business case for good corporate ethics, the identification of ethical dilemmas, the ethical issues within the context of insurance, and the nature of the conflicts that brokers face in their day to day jobs. 

How brokers can stay in the clear

“There are several instances of brokerage operations where ethical issues can come into question, from conflicts of interest and gifting policies to disclosure and confidentiality. And these issues are particularly important in the context of brokerages making a concerted effort to hire younger talent, where old school and modern perspectives could clash,” says Dave Mahr, a partner at ALTA Consulting, a key contributor to the RSA ethics webinar. “Instilling a culture of ethics has to be led from the top and bought into from the ground up. For a business to considered above board, ethical reflection has to be incorporated into day to day operations – from sales calls and training to internal dialogues and corporate decision-making.”

Given the increasing value that millennials in particular place on corporate purpose and transparency, it is in corporations’ best interest to have checks and balances in place to ensure their operations are conducted ethically and responsibly, if only to secure their current and future workforce.  

“The ethics webinar we developed was built to reflect real-life examples and content input from broker participants in the 2019 edition of our signature leadership program, Making Partner. Our goal is for participants of the ethics training to be able to effectively mitigate potentials conflict between their overall obligation to their customers and employer,” added Carr.

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This article originally appeared in Canadian Underwriter magazine.