Pathways to Trust in Financial Services: A Closer Look

By: Jason M. Patitt, PhD, and Katherina G. Pattit, PhD

Released May 2023

For consumers seeking trustworthy financial products and services, experiences are paramount. This research brief provides a full analysis of the Center for Ethics’ latest research on trust in financial services. Our 2023 Maguire Fellows in Applied Ethics explain in detail how consumers perceive and interact with industry players, including insights on the three domains of trust and how they can improve financial firms’ understanding of clients; which types of financial services organizations have lower trust values; why cultivating a personal relationship with consumers is important, and the types of experiences that are most valued.


Toward a Perspective of Stakeholder Culture in the Financial System

By: Caterina Bulgarella, PhD

Released August 2022

This research paper addresses the role of stakeholder culture in business, which has been an under-examined area of analysis. In the financial sector, culture is inextricably linked to the creation of value (business and financial) because stakeholders (e.g., the consumer, distributors, regulators, etc.) are inherently interdependent and share risk. This paper provides a framework to help financial firms manage the rapid change they face today by identifying and mapping out the industry’s stakeholder culture. The analysis integrates insights from interviews with subject matter experts, cultural artifacts, and consumers.


Trust in Financial Services: A Consumer View of Values Influencing Connection and Adoption

Research Team: Azish Filabi, JD, MA, and Domarina Oshana, PhD

Released June 2022

According to past research, financial services consistently appeared as one of the least-trusted sectors in business. However, data gathered by the American College Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics shows reasons for hope—and offers a more optimistic outlook. Using a combination of surveys, focus group discussions, and individual interviews, the team at the Center for Ethics gathered insights from nearly 2,000 consumers about their beliefs and behaviors regarding the financial services industry. Our insights – available on this microsite – can help businesses close gaps in trust and better position themselves for long-term relationships.


AI-Enabled Underwriting Brings New Challenges for Life Insurance: Policy and Regulatory Considerations

By: Azish Filabi, JD, MA, and Sophia Duffy, JD, CPA

Released January 2022

Based on the Center’s research on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in underwriting, this paper identifies ethical and regulatory challenges for financial services in leveraging AI technologies for underwriting and offers a framework for companies and regulators to navigate these challenges. It is published by The Journal of Insurance Regulation, a peer-reviewed publication of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), and is a companion to a white paper written for The College, AI, Ethics and Life Insurance: Balancing Innovation With Access.

An Analysis of The State of Stakeholder Trust in the Financial Services Industry

By: Caterina Bulgarella, PhD

Released April 2021

Despite a commitment to ethical standards of behavior within financial services, research consistently shows the public is still leery of trusting those in the industry. The American College Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics in Financial Services has launched a multi-part research initiative to address this challenge. The Center conducted interviews with a number of senior executives in the industry – the results of that research are published in this white paper, An Analysis of the State of Trust in the Financial Industry.

AI, Ethics and Life Insurance: Balancing Innovation With Access

By: Azish Filabi, JD, MA, and Sophia Duffy, JD, CPA

Released March 2021

Rapidly-advancing technology brings with it new challenges, and the financial services industry increasingly finds itself at a crossroads where integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovations meets ethical and anti-discrimination concerns. In May 2021, the Center convened a participatory workshop on AI ethics in financial services, including a panel of experts to address how financial services—and the life insurance industry in particular—can leverage AI technologies. Topics and research discussed during the workshop are included in this white paper, AI, Ethics and Life Insurance: Balancing Innovation With Access, covering the revolution of big data and accelerated underwriting in the life insurance industry.


WEBCAST – Women in Financial Services: Opportunities to Support Growth and Leadership

Hosted By: Azish Filabi, JD, and Hilary Fiorella

December 2020

In the modern world, women continue to make steady gains in both recognition and representation; however, that progress is still met by barriers, especially in the financial services industry. In this panel discussion, Azish Filabi, JD, Executive Director of the American College Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics in Financial Services, Hilary Fiorella, Executive Director of the American College Center for Women in Financial Services, and State Farm Senior Vice President Denise Hardin explore the important role women play in financial services, the growing role of the female investor, and the importance of building workplace cultures that promote their advancement. Watch now.


Women in Insurance Sales: Challenges and Opportunities

Released December 2020

In Spring 2016 the American College Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics in Financial Services collaborated with the American College Center for Women in Financial Services to conduct research to better understand the experience of women working in the financial services. This preliminary study was designed to address the following overarching question: How does gender influence individual experiences and perceptions of the equality of opportunity between men and women in the financial services industry? The study included a survey completed by 1,135 industry professionals at six different companies, along with in-depth interviews with 71 survey respondents who volunteered to participate. The results from this preliminary study suggest that women in the financial services industry have a fundamentally different experience than men, and that this experience informs a substantially less optimistic view of the opportunity structures for women in the industry.


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.