Risks and Priorities
Assessing your ethical risks
Insurance has a unique ethical profile, influenced by the trust and promise inherent in the products and services on offer. It’s important to get that ethical profile right, to ensure that your business focuses on the risks that matter most. It has two key ingredients – the business objectives that your firm has set itself and the ethical issues that are circulating around your market.
With many years of management experience in the insurance sector, I understand how your business works and the market it operates in. As a long established watcher of ethics in insurance, I am well positioned to advice on those issues that could most relevant and those that are trending. I bring a set of structured tools to establishing your ethical profile and helping you use it to achieve business objectives.
Setting your ethical priorities
Your ethics profile gives you a clear picture of the risks that ethics presents to your business. Now you need to set the priorities for your people to focus on. This involves weighing up the impacts that different ethical issues could have on achieving your business objectives. That’s where the critical friend role that I often take helps firms to weigh up challenging questions and create a clear set of priorities for the year ahead.
An ethics plan also needs to satisfy the same criteria (resources, time, priorities) as any other part of a business plan. That means realistic judgements about what the business can achieve and by when. Here my many years of management experience in insurance will bring a pragmatism to weighing up these considerations.
An ethics workshop
Companies are sometimes hesitant about holding an ethics workshop – they’re not sure what might emerge or how expectations can be managed. However, ask the operational people who attend them and invariably, the responses are very positive. That’s because ethics workshops represent a great opportunity for the company to put its finger on the ethical pulse of how its people are working.
Properly planned and facilitated, ethics workshops provide senior managers with valuable insights into the ethical concerns that their people have. As an external, independent expert in both ethics and insurance, my experience ensures that your workshop is a success for those commissioning it, those participating in it and those who deal with its outcomes.
Better ethics reporting
If you have ethical issues that could put your company’s reputation at risk, then you need to be reporting on how they are being managed and what sort of results are being achieved. This means embedding ethics reporting within your management information systems and compliance schedule of internal controls. Having set up non-financial MI from scratch, and helped revitalise existing arrangements, I can bring an experienced ‘critical friend’ perspective to keeping your board informed about the ethical issues that matter.
Good reporting looks both to the future and to the past. That means having an ethics radar that can track current issues and spot emerging trends. Not easy from within a single company, but straightforward for an ‘ethics watcher’ like myself long versed in how the sector works.
Links to governance
Your ethical profile will feature a number of ethical risks and after the priority ones have been identified, they need to incorporated into your company’s corporate governance arrangements. This ensures that the Board is kept informed about the key ethical risks and about the internal controls being used to manage them.
It’s important that this doesn’t turn into a paper exercise detached from the realities of what is happening in the company. The risks need to be accurately represented and the internal controls clearly specified, to ensure that the right questions get asked, either by the Board or through internal audit. Having both set up internal controls frameworks from scratch and revitalised existing ones, I have the practical management experience to ensure that your Board is kept informed about the ethical issues that matter.
Here are a couple of yardsticks to place against the corporate governance arrangements of any insurance or financial planning business. If, over the last three years, there’s hasn’t been an ethical risk featured in your internal control schedule, or in that same period, internal audit hasn’t conducted a review of how a particular ethical risk is being managed, then the chances are that the links to your corporate governance are in need of review. Get in touch and we can look at how best to strenghten them.