Facing a Professionalism Conundrum? Ask the Experts

Facing a Professionalism Conundrum? Ask the Experts


Sometimes a situation involving actuarial professionalism arises at work that you don’t feel quite comfortable discussing with your colleagues or boss. Perhaps you’ve been asked to take on a new role but you’re not sure if you are qualified, and you wish there were someone who could review your qualifications with you. Sometimes you think you know what to do, but you’d like a sounding board.


At such times, we urge you to submit a request for guidance (RFG) to the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (ABCD). Many actuaries, focused on the “D” for discipline, hesitate to contact the ABCD for help. But you should know that the board was established with a deliberate focus on the “C” for counseling to prevent the need for discipline. The idea is that if actuaries have a place to turn to for their professionalism questions, many violations of the Code of Professional Conduct could be prevented. Hence the establishment of the request-for-guidance process.


The ABCD accepts two types of RFGs—a request for guidance from an individual ABCD member, also known as “informal” guidance; and a request for guidance from the whole board, also known as “formal” guidance. The most common by far is an individual request. In recent years, the number of individual “informal” RFGs answered by the ABCD has risen to just over 100 each year. The vast majority have been related to Precept 1 (integrity/skill and care), Precept 2 (qualifications), Precept 3 (actuarial standards of practice [ASOPs]), and Precept 4 (communications). For more detailed topics covered by RFGs, please see the ABCD annual reports.


To request guidance from an individual member, you can contact either the ABCD office or an ABCD member directly. If you contact the office, ABCD Staff Attorney Edward Lee may provide guidance if the matter does not involve technical issues. Otherwise, he will connect you to one or more of the ABCD members. When you submit an individual request for guidance, you will likely hear back in just a few days, although it may take longer in some circumstances.


What can you expect from a request for guidance? First, apart from a brief, anonymized summary of the issue that is circulated to all ABCD members afterward, your discussion remains confidential. The ABCD member will likely discuss your issue in terms of the professionalism standards—the Code of Professional Conduct, the U.S. Qualification Standards, or the ASOPs—relevant to the issue at hand. He or she may ask questions to elicit more information or raise issues that may not have occurred to you. It is a conversation between you and the ABCD member, a chance to ask questions and get advice from an experienced colleague.


In most cases, the actuary has thought about the issue and reviewed relevant professionalism standards before calling the ABCD. “Most of the RFGs confirm the actuary was on the right road, and it was a way to say, ‘Yes, you’re right. You’ve thought this through, and if I were in your shoes I probably would have come to the same conclusion.’ There have been very few RFGs that were not resolved this way,” outgoing ABCD Chairperson Rick Block said last year.[1]


So, when you are faced with a professionalism conundrum or just need a sounding board, remember: ABCD members really are here to help! Do submit a request for guidance.


[1]The Highlight of My Career: An Interview with Outgoing ABCD Chairperson Rick Block,” Actuarial Update, December 2018, p.4.

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