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Professionalism Counts is a column in Actuarial Update, the Academy's monthly newsletter. 

March 2021

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Professionalism lies at the heart of the Academy’s mission. Accordingly, the Academy maintains a wealth of professionalism resources to help members keep their professionalism knowledge up to date.

First and foremost, the Academy is home to the actuarial profession’s fundamental professionalism documents—the Code of Professional Conduct (the Code), the Qualification Standards for Actuaries Issuing Statements of Actuarial Opinion in the United States (USQS), and the actuarial standards of practice (ASOPs).

The Code is, of course, the foundational document of actuarial professionalism. In 14 Precepts, it sets out “what it means for an actuary to act as a professional ... [and] identifies the responsibilities that actuaries have to the public, to their clients and employers, and to the actuarial profession.” The Code is available on the Academy website, where members may also request a handy pocket-sized hard copy.

The USQS sets forth the basic education, experience, and continuing education (CE) requirements to issue statements of actuarial opinion (SAOs) in the United States. Under the USQS, actuaries have a general obligation to “keep timely records” of CE and “should be prepared to provide evidence of compliance” with the USQS (see sections 6.1 and 6.2). If you are looking for a CE tracking tool to record your CE in compliance with the USQS, the Academy provides TRACE, a free online tool. Another useful qualifications tool is the Attestation Form, which actuaries can use to demonstrate how they meet the USQS, for both the general and the specific qualification standards. TRACE records CE only, while the Attestation Form allows you to record all of your qualifications, including CE.

To help actuaries interpret the USQS, the Committee on Qualifications publishes an FAQ document. More than 50 FAQs cover a wide range of topics including practice area, SAOs, and qualifications to issue NAIC annual statement opinions, principle-based reserves, and blended opinions. Questions on CE are so common that not only do the FAQs contain more than 20 questions on CE, but the Academy has also published an infographic on the topic. If you still have a question after perusing these resources, you may contact the Committee on Qualifications.

ASOPs, found on the Actuarial Standards Board website, provide a roadmap for actuarial work. They indicate what an actuary should consider, document, and disclose when performing particular tasks. Exposure drafts and comments are also on the website, as is the definitions document, which lists every term defined in the ASOPs, the definition, and the ASOP(s) in which it appears. Although actuaries are ultimately responsible for determining which ASOPs apply to a particular assignment, the Applicability Guidelines can assist actuaries in making that determination. Issued by the Academy’s Council on Professionalism and updated with input from the practice councils whenever a new or revised ASOP is released, the Applicability Guidelines are a handy tool that show common tasks by practice area and which ASOPs likely apply. (Unlike ASOPs, the Applicability Guidelines are not binding on actuaries.)

Two columns regularly appearing in Academy publications focus on professionalism. “Up to Code,” which appears in Contingencies, is written by an Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (ABCD) member, and “Professionalism Counts” appears in Actuarial Update each month. Both of these columns may also be found on Professionalism First—the Academy’s online hub for professionalism resources.

One of the Academy’s most popular resources is the four professionalism webinars offered each year. These webinars feature actuaries with a deep knowledge of professionalism discussing a wide variety of professionalism topics, from the basics, such as the Code and ASOPs, to more specific topics such as reliance, ethics, and uncertainty. Recorded webinars are available free of charge to Academy members. A favorite in recent years has been the annual production of “Tales from the Dark Side,” featuring issues that have come before the ABCD.

If you are in the mood for a deeper dive into the waters of professionalism, several thought-provoking papers are available. Discussion papers by the Committee on Professional Responsibility cover topics such as self-regulation, international practice, and the application of Precept 13 of the Code. In recent years, several overviews of actuarial professionalism and why it is important have been published or updated, including Professionalism and the Practicing Actuary, The Academy and the Web of Professionalism, and Structural Framework of U.S. Actuarial Professionalism.

If, after looking through all of these, you still have unresolved questions, or find yourself in a professionalism-related quandary, you may wish to call the ABCD with a request for guidance. When you request guidance, you will be connected with an ABCD member who is an experienced actuary in your area of practice for a confidential discussion. They will walk you through the parts of the professionalism standards that are relevant to your situation and help you come to a conclusion about what to do next. Many actuaries have found this an invaluable service—one that is perhaps unique to the actuarial profession.

Finally, the Academy maintains a Speakers Bureau of experienced and knowledgeable individuals who have volunteered to share their expertise on actuarial professionalism topics at actuarial club and employer meetings.

Professionalism Counts

Professional Judgment: Exercise It With Skill And Care


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