For actuary veteran D. Joeff Williams, professionalism in the workplace has always been about recognizing and understanding the needs of clients and balancing that with the standards and reputation of the actuarial profession. He recalls a few examples when 'Professionalism First' values helped guide his decision-making on specific issues.
Actuarial Community - Invaluable for Gaining the Right Perspective
Early in my consulting career, I was excited to get a new client on my own. They were a small insurance company that was licensed in only one state. While they were not going to generate any great sums of actuarial consulting revenue it was still exciting to claim them as my client. Unfortunately, during the first several years as I became familiar with the company and their portfolio, there was a particular product that was already starting to create concerns and had the potential for generating future losses. It was apparent that some difficult conversations were going to have to be made with the company. Eventually those conversations materialized with both the company and the insurance department. I utilized outside actuarial advice to discuss concerns and ideas. This was invaluable in getting different perspectives and gaining insights on alternatives to help address the issue. Through the whole process the thing I remember most was thinking, “OK, what is the best approach to deal with the issue, how am I going describe the situation and always remember the policyholder is the ultimate benefactor for the work that is being done.” The difficult conversations did occur. Fortunately, we were able to work with the department of insurance and get an acceptable solution that ultimately protected the policyholder. It did mean the company had to be sold since the current owners would not have the financial resources to continue the operations and I lost a client. But I do look back and realize that was the right and best decision.
"I utilized outside actuarial advice to bounce concerns and ideas off. This was invaluable in getting a different perspective and gaining insights on alternatives to help address the issue."
Increasing the Academy's Work to Add Valuable Resources
The rich history of how professionalism is central to the actuarial activities and work products shows in the amount of high quality professionalism resources that the Academy is continually producing and updating. They are always exploring new ways to get the professionalism message out to the members. As chair of the Council on Professionalism, it was eye-opening and often saddening to hear over and over again how so many members would comment, “well I didn’t know that was available.” That just tells me there is always work that needs to be done and makes what the Academy is doing even more valuable.
"The two items I see as so important regarding professionalism are 'self-regulation' and 'future mindset.'"
The two items I see as so important regarding professionalism are “self-regulation” and “future mindset.” Self-regulation is what makes the actuarial profession unique. It is a privilege and responsibility that we have to recognize and find ways to educate our membership to its importance. I think for many actuaries they don’t really understand what that means. They don’t think about it in their everyday practice. We need to always be reminding them. This leads to the “future mindset.” The work and decisions we do today are really for the next generation of actuaries. Where we are today is because of the work that past generations did to further professionalism. Developing a code of conduct, seeing the need for robust standards of practice, recognizing the needed for a separate board of counseling and discipline and understanding the importance of a well thought through set of qualification standards, all benefit us today. What we need to do is ask ourselves, "what are we doing to further the goal of professionalism for future actuaries?" This is where actuaries can demonstrate professionalism to the younger actuaries by where, when and how we stress professionalism in the everyday work place. Do you discuss actuarial standards of practice, qualification standards and the code? Do you incorporate professionalism issues into the work products you are dealing with every day? Do you practice a respect for the value of professionalism in the way you tackle difficult decisions?
D. Joeff Williams