Could Ethics be trained?

Could Ethics be trained?

-By Karl Yuen

Nowadays, ethics have become more and more important, whether it is in the business areas, medical industry, educational space, or our society. Ethics is different from other knowledge; somebody could be trained their competency, ability, and knowledge. However,  ethics is about your value and motivation, which comes from your heart. So, is the training in ethics helpful?

Ethics is a set of shared beliefs about what is good or bad and acceptable or unacceptable behaviour. Ethical conduct has been described as behaviour that follows moral principles and is consistent with society’s ethical expectations. Ethical conduct has also been described as improving outcomes for stakeholders directly or indirectly affected by the conduct.

Why is ethics important? It is a common issue in the business area. Investment professionals are entrusted with their client’s wealth. Clients often need significant knowledge about their understanding of financial products, fee structures, or sources of potential bias in investment recommendations. Clients can only rely on investment professionals’ expertise, judgment, and ethical principles. Therefore, investment professionals must use their specialized knowledge and skills to protect and grow client assets via their high ethical standards.

Learning ethics is a compulsory curriculum in the financial industry. You must pass the test to attain the qualification to be an investment professional. For example, ethics are included in CFA level one and HKSI paper one, which are the elementary elements of being an investment professional. The content covers the elements between legal and ethics standards, the application of making an ethical decision, and the outcomes of being ethical or being unethical.

In fact, most courses are tended to utilitarianism, which is outcomes-oriented, focusing on the benefits and drawbacks of being ethical or unethical. In other words, it is to provide incentives or warnings to the audiences, not how to motivate them to become ethical. Being moral or not unethical seems to be a trick or method to attain your business goals. For example, some companies use “sponsor child” for fundraising, the company earns money by showing its “corporate social responsibility” to attract people to donate money. In the past, donors found that most donations are used for the company executive expenses, such as salary. Therefore, it can show that the company is using “Ethics” to attain its business goals.

To improve the atmosphere of ethics, it could focus on Deontology and KANT ethical theory. They are taking action based on whether that action is right or wrong under a series of rules and principles rather than based on the consequences of the action. Besides, it focuses on responsibility rather than feelings or results. All actions should follow some basic principle from which the moral standards of each action are determined. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, performing your responsibility and having recognition from others can satisfy level four of the need for “Self-esteem.” The motivation to be ethical at this level could obviously increase. It would seek the improvement of being ethical and step into the highest level of needs for “Self-actualization needs.” It could release a person’s potential, self-fulfilment and seek personal growth. In other words, focusing on Deontology and KANT ethical theory can directly motivate people to act ethically, and they would like to give more than ask to receive. As a result, more people will perform ethical behaviours, and the ethical standards will become higher.

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