How the CII’s Code of Ethics can help you with a dilemma
On joining the CII as a member, you may have looked at the CII Code of Ethics and reflected on how it would be a helpful tool to assist you in solving future problems at work. It may have inspired a sense of pride, that you were becoming a member of a community of professionals who hold themselves to
high standards of ethical behaviour.
However, despite best intentions of consulting the Code of Ethics on a regular basis, or when presented with a dilemma, the reality is that when we are presented with a problem, it is human nature to fall back on tried-and-tested methods of solving it. These methods include abiding by our personal and individual values and beliefs, such as: ‘Would this course of action be dishonest?’; thinking about societal expectations – ‘How would I feel if someone treated me in this way?’; or checking the rules we are expected to uphold – Does my organisation have a policy on this?’ In this hierarchy, consulting the CII Code of Ethics may fall quite far down the list. This is because all the other methods have worked well in the past and it is learned behaviour to use them first and foremost at times of pressure or stress.
None of the tried-and-tested methods of problem-solving listed above are wrong, however the CII Code of Ethics is another tool that CII professionals should be familiar with and call on when faced with a dilemma. It’s not just another set of rules to adhere to (although that, of course, is an important function of an effective code). It adds another perspective to problem-solving – similar to the voice of an impartial colleague or peer – which encourages self-reflection in order to come up with the most ethical course of action to take in a range of scenarios.
For example, say your manager asks you to complete a task that you have not undertaken before, or received training on. The code includes some key questions to ask yourself, such as: ‘Can I improve my knowledge by additional training?’; and ‘Do I ask for help when I need it?’ Or, if you are a senior manager implementing a new process or policy, there are questions to ask yourself, such as: ‘Does my organisation reward good ethical behaviour?; and ‘How can I promote trust in my organisation and the financial services profession?’
In November 2020 in a survey of around 2,000 CII members, those who had used the Code of Ethics in the past 12 months were asked whether it had helped them find a solution to an ethical dilemma. Some 57% of members responded that the code had been helpful to them in finding a solution to their problem. Members who were beginning their careers found the code particularly useful – with 68% of those classed as ‘starting out’ and 72% of ‘career explorers’ saying that the code helped them decide on the best approach to an ethical dilemma.
However, it is not just those who are relatively new to insurance and financial planning who are consulting the code. Strategic leaders also said they found the code helpful, with 57% of this group saying the code had assisted them in solving a dilemma in the past 12 months.
The code, and the associated practical guide – which contains case studies and more information on how the code can be used in practice – are designed to be able to help members find solutions to all kinds of problems and dilemmas. However, some scenarios are particularly complex and require more detailed examination and advice. For that reason, the CII publishes companion guides to the Code of Ethics, which focus on particularly challenging and specialist topics.
To date, companion guides have been published on Digital Ethics; Financially Inclusive Customer Outcomes; and most recently, Transparency and Insurance. Each of these companion guides uses the Code of Ethics as a lens to look at topics that are of particular relevance and complexity, to give members enhanced support in making ethical decisions in these areas.
The CII is always seeking ways to continue helping members faced with ethical dilemmas and we are interested to hear from members about which areas would benefit from a closer look in the form of future companion guides.
Additionally, last year a number of real-life ethics case studies were provided by CII members. Should you wish to share a case study or an idea for future companion guides, please contact the CII’s professional standards manager Rebecca Aston: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca Aston is professional standards manager of the CII