Ethical Decision Making in Insurance

Ethical decision making in insurance is growing in importance because of five factors…

  • The rise of individual accountability in conduct regulations
  • The use of attestation provisions around specific ethical issues like fairness
  • The growing ability of regulators to track outcomes from particular decisions.
  • The generic nature of compliance obligations, particularly in relation to data and analytics
  • The growing realisation that data and analytics have been driving some insurance practices beyond the bounds of regulatory tolerance
 Insurance people need to be better equipped to make more ethical decisions. And with practice, their confidence to do so under pressure increases too, enabling their team to handle tricky situations and maintain business momentum.


Where can insurance people turn for help when faced with a decision that has a clear ethical side to it? One that they’ve decided to actively address this time around. Unfortunately, people often stall at this point, uncertain of how to begin.

They could turn to their firm’s code of ethics, or one from their professional body. After all, they’re probably the only documents handy with the word ethics written all over them. Or perhaps they could think of the regulator’s rulebook, with its principles and obligations.

Important though these documents are, they suffer from three drawbacks. Firstly, they’re somewhat generic and so seem a bit disconnected from the ‘here and now’ of the situation being faced. Secondly, they can sometimes have a ‘pot half empty’ feel to them, telling us what we must do or cannot do. A bit head teacher’ish perhaps. And thirdly, they have a somewhat ‘external’ feel to them, full of important things of course, but written and applied from a distance.

That’s where ethical decision making comes in. It’s not rocket science - people have a lot already in them that they can use to bring ethics in their decisions. They just need to bring together some knowledge and skills to get started. Confidence then builds and a virtuous circle develops.

The focus of ethical decision making should be to draw on those internal resources first, bringing together existing values and knowledge, and some easily acquired skills. This makes the emphasis then less on the bar that standards often set, and more on the steps that help you get started towards achieving them.   

More on this here... Where do you start your ethical decision making?


My ethical decision making course resource draws on many years experience of helping people and firms. Click on the cover image to go to the download page...

ethical decision making course


Individual Accountability

The rise of individual accountability has raised concerns amongst insurance people about the consequences of getting something wrong. And this is being heightened by the complexity of issues like fairness and discrimination that the regulator is paying attention to. One alternative to sleepless nights is to help your people become familiar with, and comfortable applying, ethical decision making. More here...Ethical Decision Making and Individual Accountability


2017 Ethics Lecture for the Insurance Institute of Ireland

creating an ethical workplace


Dangerous Words

I often ask insurance people I'm training whether they've ever heard a certain phrase, known as the five most dangerous words in business. Most have.

It's one of a series of rationalisations that people can use to make a poor decision look more ethical than it really is. Read more about this here...

The Five Most Dangerous Words in Business


Overcoming Hurdles to Ethical Decision Making 

People sometimes hesitate over ethical decision making. In this article, I outline five common reasons for this and the different way of thinking about them that I provide when training people in ethics...

5 Beliefs that Get in the Way of People Addressing Ethics 


Learning Resource

My work has covered many different challenges that insurers have encountered with ethics. And from this, it became clear that their people's capabilities needed a bit of a boost in places. Often they knew where they needed to get to, but were unsure how to get started in that direction.

That's why I developed a suite of learning resource dedicated to the idea of 'moving from thinking about the ethical side of a decision, to actually doing something about it'.  In other words, helping them to 'walk the talk'.

You can see overviews of this learning resource here. Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to have an informal chat about it.


New Ideas around Ethical Decision Making

In recent years, two big themes have become influential in thinking about how we approach ethical decision making. The first is behavioural ethics, which is just as much about why people make unethical decisions as about why they make ethical ones. More on this here - What People must Learn to make Better Decisions  

And the second is cognitive diversity, which looks at how people have different ways of thinking, and what this means for the ethical performance both of individuals and teams. More on this here - Why Cognitive Diversity can Boost Ethical Performance

Jump to other 'Ethical Skills' themes...

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