Guidelines for Staff
Some of your staff will be doing work that carries a greater than average exposure to certain types of ethical risk – conflicts of interest or client confidentiality for example. In such circumstance, it makes sense to support them with clear guidance on that ethical risk, tailored to the job they’re performing.
Having worked closely with underwriters, claims teams and broking people for many years, I’m able to combine that insurance experience with the practicalities of business ethics to equip your people with clear guidelines that make sense. I often work with internal communications people on strategies to put those ethical concerns front of mind and to keep them there.
Widely acknowledged for the relevance and practicality of my advice and course material, I can provide you with structured, well thought through guidance for handling ethical ‘hot spots’.
While a code of ethics sets out how the company expects all employees to behave, there will be occasions when you want to emphasise the importance of particular behaviours to particular types of staff – for example, where it’s been the focus of regulatory scrutiny or operational shortcomings.
You emphasise those particular ethical behaviours by building them into the job descriptions of relevant staff. This helps bring them to the fore during appraisals and in performance management.
So what particular ethical behaviours should a claims manager have? Or a senior underwriter? For sales people, such decisions may be straightforward, but other insurance and financial planning disciplines are more tricky.
That’s where my track record as a commentator on ethical issues in insurance and financial planning comes in – I’ve written about the ethics of underwriting, of claims settlement, of broking often enough to have sorted out the wheat from the chaff. What you get as a client is a structured, well thought out approach to achieving an ethical focus amongst particular disciplines.
Guidelines for Directors
The leadership of a firm plays a pivotal role in ensuring that its people act with honesty and integrity. It’s often summed up as setting the right ‘tone from the top’ but what is that made up of? What is your existing tone like? And how can you go about improving it?
Setting the right tone, and then maintaining it, is not always an easy task. It involves a number of different elements, applied over the short term and reinforced over the long term. Here are a few points to think about:
- Do your board reports track measures of ethical risk?
- Do you recognise and reward good ethical behaviour?
- Are your senior leaders seen as role models for honesty and integrity?
Tone from the top can’t be left to chance. With over 20 years of working with boards and management teams, I am ideally positioned to guide your leadership team along a programme to raise that tone in a managed and embedded fashion. I help you see beyond the usual flurry of short term actions, to a clear set of robust and consistent stages for achieving the right ethical tone.
A survey in 2011 of FTSE100 companies found that while 91% did refer in some way to ethics in their annual report, only 8% reported some form of measure of their company’s ethical performance.
It reflects a pitfall that most UK companies fall into: recognising that ethics is something they need to talk about, but failing to back up that commentary with any meaningful management information. It leaves investors having to guess the veracity of what is being said and creates a breeding ground for suspicions about the amount of spin involved.
Building a good set of performance measures can sometimes be a challenge – I once did it for the UK’s biggest insurance contract. Yet without meaningful MI, directors are unable to judge whether their company is progressing or regressing, going fast or slow, forwards or sideways.
‘Measure what you manage’ applies to ethics just like any other business initiative. Having advised a wide range of companies in the insurance and financial planning sectors, I am well placed to guide you to those measures that can really inform decision making.