Courtesy and Cooperation

Courtesy and Cooperation

Precept 10 is different from all the other precepts in the Code of Professional Conduct (Code) in that much of its purpose is to provide a framework in which actuaries, who may sometimes be competitors, can work together courteously and cooperatively to provide Principals, intended users, and the general public with high-level and trustworthy actuarial service.


The courtesies actuaries extend to each other as professionals are an important element of this cooperation. Simple courtesy improves efficiency and communications. Lack of courtesy can negatively affect clients and their impression of the actuarial profession. But extending courtesy and cooperation to competitors, rivals, or even someone coming to take your job can be challenging, to say the least.


That may be why Precept 10 has more annotations than any other Precept and presents the longest text of any Precept of the Code. The material covers some of the stickier situations you may find yourself in as an actuary—discussing differences of opinion with another actuary,  discussing with the Principal your difference of opinion with another actuary, and cooperating with another actuary who may have been brought in to replace you (or vice versa).


All these situations require tact, courtesy, and cooperation. In order to promote a high level of professional courtesy and enhance and preserve professional relationships among actuaries, Precept 10 sets forth the profession’s expectations for communication in such situations, stating, “An Actuary shall perform Actuarial Services with courtesy and professional respect and shall cooperate with others in the Principal’s interest.”

That means that when you disagree with another actuary, it is important that you avoid communicating that disagreement in an antagonistic or obnoxious manner. Such behavior degrades the profession. As Annotation 10-1 states, “Differences of opinion among actuaries may arise, particularly in the choices of assumptions and methods. Discussions of such differences between an Actuary and another actuary, or in observations made by an Actuary to a Principal on the work of another actuary, should be conducted objectively and with courtesy and respect.”


ASOP No. 1, Introductory Actuarial Standard of Practice, expands on this idea, explaining that because actuaries often estimate uncertain events, there is frequently “a range of reasonable methods and assumptions, and two actuaries could … both using reasonable methods and assumptions … reach different but reasonable results.”[1] Although some actuaries may find such conversations difficult, starting with the fact that you realize actuaries faced with the same facts may arrive at different conclusions may smooth the way for a productive discussion.


The need for civil and productive discussions under trying circumstances can also occur when a Principal decides to consult with a new or additional actuary. Though this may be upsetting, Precept 10 informs that an actuary’s professional obligation to a Principal does not cease with the termination of the employment relationship. Regardless of how or why that relationship was terminated, the actuary’s responsibilities to the Principal have a continuing professional obligation and that actuary must cooperate with the new actuary in the Principal’s interest. So if your Principal has hired another actuary to either consult on an assignment or take it over entirely, it is your professional responsibility to cooperate in supplying “relevant information, subject to receiving reasonable compensation for the work required to assemble and transmit pertinent data and documents.”[2]


Though the Actuary need not provide any items of a proprietary nature, there’s no exception for refusal to provide work product because of unresolved compensation issues unless such refusal is in accordance with a pre-existing agreement with the Principal.[3] It is a good idea to provide any information you are asked for promptly, as a lengthy delay in such cooperation has itself been found to be a violation of the Code.[4] And, of course, failing to provide requested information is also a Code violation, as illustrated by a recent Academy discipline notice.[5]


While you may occasionally find yourself in a situation where calm, courteous communication and cooperation may seem a tall order, focusing on the underlying reason for the professionalism tenets laid out in the Code may help: to provide the Principal and—by extension, the ultimate end-users of the Principal’s products—high-quality actuarial services that they can rely upon.


[1] ASOP No. 1, Section 2.10.

[2] Code of Professional Conduct, Annotation 10-5.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Discipline notice, March 29, 2011.

[5] Discipline notice, Aug. 29, 2018.

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