The CPCU Society and American Institute for CPCU/Insurance Institute of America designate March as “Ethics Awareness Month.” Some people have a hard time defining ethics but ethics are really principles, right?
I think we often get caught up in the semantics and forget the purpose. CPCUs have long recognized the critical aspects of not only competence, but behaving ethically when conducting their personal or professional affairs.
All Society members agree to abide by the CPCU Society’s Code of Ethics as a condition of membership. In fact, the first line of the CPCU Society’s Creed remains the driving force in how CPCUs conduct their lives and business: “I will use my full knowledge and ability to perform my duties to my client or principal and place their interests above my own.”
Furthermore, being a member of the CPCU Society allows CPCUs to continually focus on ethics. There is an entire section of the Society’s Web site devoted to ethics so that members can view ethical polls, read ethics-related articles, participate in discussion boards and view chapter-related activities focusing on ethical dilemmas. Throughout the year, the Society also produces ethics workshops.
As a broker, I personally feel that we should uphold — even epitomize — ethical behavior in the insurance industry.
I was inspired by the June 2005 edition of the Society’s CPCU eJournal, “Working to Regain the Public Trust: Considerations for CPCUs,” by Robert W. Cooper, Ph.D. Dr. Cooper has been published widely in the fields of insurance and business and professional ethics, and I took to heart his simple illustration of what ethical conduct really means.
As one of the article’s exhibits, Dr. Cooper cited seven standards of professional conduct, which I believe any working professional should adopt. These basic words define what we refer to as being ethical.
Fairness: Respect the interests of all those served (clients, principals, partners, employees and employers); disclose conflicts of interest and all forms of compensation; avoid misrepresentation; treat others according to the Golden Rule.
Competence: Continually improve one’s professional knowledge and skill through an ongoing commitment to learning and improvement of professional practice; refrain from giving advice in areas beyond one’s own expertise; consult with and refer clients to other professionals when appropriate.
Confidentiality: Information obtained in the course of professional activities should not be divulged without the specific consent of the client, unless disclosure of such information is required by law or necessary to discharge legitimate professional duties; respect and safeguard the confidentiality of sensitive company/employer information.
Integrity: Honesty and candor should not be subordinated to personal gain or advantage; avoid any act or omission of a dishonest, deceitful or fraudulent nature; avoid defamatory remarks to the client or other professionals; avoid making any false or misleading statements in advertising materials and other communications to clients and the public.
Diligence: Provide services in a prompt and thorough manner; plan for and supervise the rendering of professional services.
Professionalism: Obey laws and regulations in performance of services; show respect for other professionals and related occupational groups by engaging in fair and honorable competitive practices.
Objectivity: Act with intellectual honesty and impartiality in providing services.
When Dr. Cooper’s article was written, it was intended to help provide a better understanding of the evolving ethical environment in which the Society and CPCUs, as individuals, found themselves. We needed to determine the most appropriate roles to play in helping to restore the industry’s image of trustworthiness following highly-publicized unethical activities involving collusion among certain key brokers and insurers.
While there is still a lot of commentary concerning these issues, the Society is continually striving to help its members focus on ethics.
This year, CPCU Society members, newly designated CPCUs, and other industry professionals will convene in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the CPCU Society’s 63rd Annual Meeting and Seminars, Sept. 8–11. At this meeting, we will take ethical discussions further. I will moderate an Ethics panel discussion, following the Society’s annual business meeting. This panel of distinguished leaders, representing various segments of our industry, will allow us to continue this very important dialogue.
When I talk to Society chapters, organizations and companies across the country, I finish my talks with: Be ethical in all you do, both personally and professionally. These simple words — fairness, competence, confidentiality, integrity, diligence, professionalism, and objectivity — help convey complex ideas for the betterment of our industry.
By being ethical you will more than survive. You will succeed.
Betsey L. Brewer, CPCU, is the CPCU Society’s 2006-2007 president. For more information about the CPCU Society, go to www.cpcusociety.org.