A group of local college students has a challenge when it comes to ethics.

That is by choice.

The Chartered Financial Analyst Society Cayman Islands and Ernst & Young are sponsoring an ethics challenge for students at the University College of the Cayman Islands and the International College of the Cayman Islands. Participants have been given a scenario that raises questions about what actions would be appropriate. They will present their decisions and justifications for the best course of action at a competition in March.

A group of about 30 students crowded into a UCCI classroom Thursday morning to hear the details of the contest.

“I’m very excited for you guys,” said Richard Maparura, a portfolio manager for Butterfield Bank and education chair for the local CFA Society chapter. “You’re getting into something very good that’s going to help you in your real life. Ethics applies to everything you do.”

Mr. Maparura and Siddhant Jain Jaiswal, an audit manager, gave the students a brief introduction to ethics and presented them with a scenario in which a fictional analyst is asked by her boss to change a recommendation in a report because it will make her and their firm look foolish. The students will have to determine how the analyst should respond and why.

Belinda Blessitt-Vincent, chair of the UCCI business department, said the contest is an offshoot of another program sponsored by the society, the CFA Research Challenge. That competition has been in place for several years. One component of it involves ethics.

“They said, ‘Why not take that component out and have students debate it [separately],” Ms. Blessitt-Vincent said.

Mr. Jaiswal said part of the impetus for doing so is the way the reputation of financial institutions has suffered in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn, when several major Wall Street firms failed.

“Let’s get the confidence of the public back,” Mr. Jaiswal said. “Let’s make them trust us again.”

Encouraging ethical behavior, he said, is one way to achieve that.

“Where better to start than with students?” he said. “We all face ethical challenges every day. It’s all about point of view and professional judgement.”

He’s hoping the students can learn to step back and assess situations more effectively in terms of ethics.

Mr. Maparura gave the students a real-world example he said many of them may have faced. He talked about plagiarism and asked whether they should agree to share class or test notes with another student when they know it’s against school policy.

“In the long run, are you really helping your friend?” he asked.

UCCI student Charles Lewinson Jr. not only plans to take part in the ethics challenge, but is part of a winning team in the research challenge. His team recently won the first round of a regional competition among four other universities and will be traveling to Miami next weekend to compete in the second round.

Working on his bachelor’s degree in applied psychology and sociology, Mr. Lewinson said he thinks the ethics challenge will help him better navigate the career he plans to pursue in human resources.

“It helps me analyze and understand what’s best to do,” he said. “It will help me analyze situations in the human resource field. It’s actually the foundation for everything.”

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