ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Acting without sufficient expertise

Published: 16 Nov 2011 Reviewed: 23 Aug 2023 Update History

Exclusive content
Access to our exclusive resources is for specific groups of members.
What happens if you are tasked with finance work that you do not feel they have the expertise to complete? In this business case study we explore the key fundamental ethical principles this challenge raises and outlines potential courses of action.

Case outline

Your employer has put you in charge of a project, which you consider requires detailed actuarial knowledge. You are uneasy about doing the work given that you do not possess the necessary expertise and are uncertain about what to say to the employer.

Key fundamental principles

Professional competence and due care - Do you have the necessary skills and experience to undertake the work?

Professional behaviour – How should you proceed so as not to bring discredit yourself?


Identify relevant facts: Consider the business’ policies, procedures and guidelines, accounting standards, best practices, code of ethics, applicable laws and regulations, Can you demonstrate your lack of expertise in this area, the potential impact on the organisation and pension fund and offer alternatives? Can you make reference to the Institute’s professional values and disciplinary process?

Identify affected parties: Key affected parties are you and your employer. Other possible affected parties are the auditors, employees, human resources, pensioners, shareholders and financial backers.

Who should be involved in resolution: Consider not just who should be involved, but also for what reason and the timing of their involvement. Have you thought of contacting ICAEW for advice and guidance? Do you have trusted colleagues with whom you can discuss your position? At what point will you consider involving the next level of management and human resources?

Possible course of action

Discuss your concern of lack of actuarial knowledge with your employer and suggest clearly defining the scope of the project and a course of action for addressing issues such as lack of actuarial knowledge, for example, employing a person with the necessary expertise. During the discussion focus on the potential consequences to the business, pension fund and you personally, of undertaking this project. Explain that employing a person with the necessary expertise does not remove your obligation to ensure that the work is conducted in accordance with accounting standards, laws and regulations.

If your employer does not agree to the suggested course of action, it may be appropriate to discuss the matter with the next level of management. If the response from management is not satisfactory, it may be necessary to involve internal audit, Audit committee*, Pension and/or Investment Committee and the Board.

During the resolution process, it may be helpful to document the substance of the discussions held, who was involved, what decisions were made and why, and your involvement.

Videos on ethics

Hear expert insight into ethical decision making, speaking up and ethical standards, in a series of videos discussing the key issues in ethics.

The latest ethics related videos, webinars and podcasts from ICAEW. Find expert insight into ethical decision making, speaking up and ethical standards, which will support your professional development.

Key resources

Four columns
ICAEW's ethics hub

Resources to support ICAEW members to foster public trust in business practices and uphold the reputation of the accountancy profession.

ICAEW's Ethics CPD course is designed to help you apply the Code of Ethics to everyday situations and uphold the highest standards of professional conduct.
ICAEW Ethics CPD course

This online course is designed to help you apply the ICAEW Code of Ethics to everyday situations and counts towards your verifiable CPD hours.

Find out more
Help us improve regulation

Good regulation is essential for trust in business. The Better Regulation project aims to help ICAEW and its members understand how the UK’s regulatory regime might be improved and to use our insights to call for change.

Find out more