Ethical Issues in Retirement Income Planning: An Advisor's Perspective

By: Jamie Hopkins, Julie Ragatz, and Chuck Galli

March 2016

What systems, structures, and practices might lead to unethical behavior in retirement income planning? Do retirement income planners worry that these unethical practices are harming clients? We surveyed hundreds of retirement income professionals and conducted 31 follow-up, in-depth interviews to answer these questions. Our quantitative survey results show that most retirement income professionals cite lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of the agent as the primary cause of unethical behavior in their industry. Our respondents see education, not an intensified drive to identify malevolent fraud, as the best ameliorant to unethical situations in retirement income planning. We are still analyzing our qualitative data using advanced coding techniques with NVIVO analytic software. However, initial results indicate that retirement income professionals believe that credentialization – specifically the Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) designation – provides the type of education needed to ebb unethical behavior in their field. Additionally, respondents say that the retirement income industry (and financial services industry at-large) suffers disproportionately from the few, rare “bad apples” who draw outrage and media attention for their particularly grievous trespasses. We believe that this project will enrich the literature on ethical behavior in retirement income planning and financial services in general. As retirement income planning becomes a more salient topic for an increasing number of Americans, understanding how ethicality can be reinforced will become essential to the economic prosperity of millions of people.


Women in Insurance Sales: Obstacles and Solutions

By: Julie Ragatz, Chuck Galli, Jocelyn Wright


There has been much ink spilled on the historical under-representation of women in the insurance sales industry and the factors that contribute to this disparity. Unlike previous industry research, which has often relied on small samples of female employees within one company, this joint research project (conducted with The American College State Farm® Center for Women and Financial Services) uses an exponentially larger sample of both female and male employees from some of the largest and most well-known financial services organizations in the country. In this study, we solicit the perspectives of both men and women on questions of gender-based obstacles, favoritism, the role of mentorship and advocacy, and the need for organizational and industry-level change.

Making the Leap: Creating and Maintaining Trusting Relationships

By: Julie Ragatz, Jason Martin


Previous research indicates that while consumers often report significant levels of trust in their financial advisor, they also report a considerable lack of trust in financial organizations and institutions. Given that trust is an essential condition for the development and maintenance of mutually beneficial relationships between advisors and their clients, it is important to inquire about factors that affect clients’ trust levels and how advisors can influence these factors. The American College Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics in Financial Services will shed light on these questions by conducting a rigorous, thorough analysis of existing data (taken from the RAND American Life Panel). We expand on this research by collecting primary data from consumers themselves.

Perceptions of Organizational Ethics within the Financial Services Industry

By: Julie Ragatz, Jason Martin, Gerry Herbison, Chuck Galli, CiAuna Heard


What factors influence one’s perception of ethical behavior in the financial services sector? This is a question that we are addressing through a mixed-methods research project using original data. We ask whether one’s rank within a company and the length at which one has worked in a given company affect his or her perception of ethical behavior and ethical problems in his or her company as well as in the financial services sector at-large. We conducted statistical analysis on quantitative data obtained through online surveys sent to over one thousand participants. We also performed a series of interviews with survey respondents who expressed interest in participating in a more thorough aspect of the research project. Our quantitative results show that increase in organizational rank is mildly associated with more optimistic perception of organizational culture. Tenure, however, is more complex and affects ethical perceptions differently depending on one’s rank in a company. Our qualitative results show that employees at different organizational ranks determine their organization’s ethical standing using very different measures. We anticipate the results from this study to contribute greatly to the study of business ethics and to add nuance to a rich and ongoing discourse about organizational ethics.