Serving the public and the U.S. actuarial profession requires a steadfast commitment to the highest level of professional objectivity. To produce independent, unbiased, and reliable actuarial information and insights, the Academy employs processes and controls to govern its work. Read on to learn more.
 
Resources for Professional Objectivity at the Academy
New resources will be added several times throughout the year. Please bookmark this page for future visits.
  1. Conflict of Interest Policy
  2. Conflict of Interest Discussion Paper
  3. Background on COI and CE Policy Acknowledgements
Articles and Commentary from Academy Leadership

Article by Joeff Williams – January 2017 Actuarial Update

Academy Volunteers and Interested Parties: Required Acknowledgment of Your Commitment to Objectivity
Joeff Williams
Vice President, Council on Professionalism


The Academy’s work requires that its volunteers recognize their obligation to maintain a high level of professional objectivity and independence from any specific interests of members’ employers or from partisanship. To emphasize the importance of remaining objective, the Academy Board requires that each year, Academy volunteers—and any individual who is an interested party on a committee, whether an Academy member or not—must acknowledge the Academy’s Conflict of Interest (COI) policy. Those who fail to do so may not participate in the work of Academy boards or committees.

The time for making this commitment a reality is now. Academy volunteers and interested parties should have recently received a request to acknowledge the Academy’s COI policy. Volunteers have an additional responsibility to comply with the continuing education (CE) requirements of the U.S. Qualification Standards (USQS) and are also asked to acknowledge that they have completed their CE requirements for 2017. I ask you to respond to this request as soon as possible.

The annual requirement for every Academy volunteer and interested party to submit an acknowledgement of the Academy’s COI policy is one of the measures we use to cultivate and protect our commitment to objectivity. Acknowledging the Academy’s COI policy also shows our recognition that the public’s trust is fundamental to our credibility as a profession and that we, as individuals, have a responsibility to the Academy and to the public it serves on behalf of the profession when we volunteer for the Academy.

When conducting activities for the Academy, Academy volunteers and interested parties are required to disclose actual or potential COI if and when they arise, and, as appropriate, recuse themselves from activities that give rise to any such conflict. For both volunteers and interested parties, this annual acknowledgment demonstrates our commitment to professional objectivity, as well as our independence from any specific interests of employers or individuals when participating in Academy committees. This independence and objectivity is illustrated, in part, by the longstanding requirement that Academy volunteers refrain from disclosing a committee’s work-in-progress other than in a manner consistent with the COI policy and the Academy’s “Guidelines for Making Public Statements.

All Academy members who are members of an Academy committee must also comply with the CE requirements of the USQS. While Academy work products are not necessarily statements of actuarial opinion under the USQS, the Board requires all Academy volunteers to meet the CE requirements of the USQS in the areas in which they practice.

All Academy volunteers were expected to be in compliance with the CE policy as of Jan. 1. Specifically, actuaries are expected to have completed 30 CE hours—relevant CE, including 6 from organized activities and 3 from professionalism topics—in 2016 or as otherwise allowed under the USQS. Volunteers may earn CE credits, including organized activity credits, by serving on committees and in other ways described in the FAQs on the USQS.

As a fellow Academy member who serves as an Academy volunteer (and as your vice president of professionalism), I ask you to provide these acknowledgements promptly if you have not already done so. Follow the instructions in the Jan. 31 email or on the membership page under “Volunteer Acknowledgements.”

If you have questions, you may contact the Academy at objectivity@actuary.org. If you experience any technical difficulties, please contact the Membership Department at membership@actuary.org or call 202- 223-8196.


Objectivity Letter from Kenneth A. Kent – reprinted from the January 2015 Actuarial Update.

Professionalism and Objectivity: More Than Just Words—A Commitment
Kenneth A. Kent

As a longtime member of the Academy’s Council on Professionalism I have grown to appreciate the opportunity for collaboration with actuaries from each of our profession’s disciplines. Our meeting focus is on issues facing actuaries without the bias of employer or industry pressures and concerns. An underlying goal of the Council’s activities is in maintaining the excellent standing our profession holds with the public we serve.  The professionalism we comport in our work is the foundation for U.S. actuaries’ independence from external regulation. 

There are continuous challenges to our profession and the work of actuaries in many areas which are regularly overcome though the recognition of our Code of Professional Conduct and Actuarial Standards of Practice.  This structure and the support for the profession is dependent on our ability to step away from our daily work and jobs, to objectively explore the work performed in each of the practice areas our profession touches upon.  This is only achieved through the donation of time by over 1,200 actuaries and their employers, volunteering to provide objective and unbiased content to support our work.

In January, I chaired my first meeting of this Council as the Academy’s new Vice President for Professionalism.  To provide for fresh input into our committee processes we invited a guest speaker to address the Council members on the topic of professional ethics.

Anita Cava, a professor of ethics from the University of Miami, joined us for a discussion about ethics and critical thinking that goes into the decisions we are called upon to make in professional life. Defining critical thinking as anticipating consequences and understanding long-term results, Ms. Cava challenged us to have unwavering respect for our professional standards and work diligently in recognizing our ethical blind spots. We all have them.

Blind spots include implicit biases that shape our views and decisions even when our intent is to be objective and unbiased. Blind spots include external pressures, and business goals that dominate a decision-making process and cause “ethical fading” where the potential unethical or problematic nature of a decision or its consequences disappears from our consciousness. Ms. Cava emphasized that professional conduct takes moral muscles and courage in the face of business pressures to make appropriate ethical decisions.

One very specific way in which all current Academy members, by virtue of becoming and remaining a member, are familiar with the active commitment to professionalism comes from our annual membership renewal in the Academy. On renewal of membership, we explicitly agree to “comply with the Code of Professional Conduct of the American Academy of Actuaries, the Actuarial Standards of Practice promulgated by the Actuarial Standards Board, and the Qualification Standards for Actuaries Issuing Statements of Actuarial Opinion in the United States promulgated by the Academy through its Committee on Qualifications.” Your explicit commitment to these membership requirements is valued by all who count on the integrity and professionalism that the MAAA credential represents.

Our profession as with any profession is dependent on the public trust. This is one reason the Academy, in all its practice council and committee work, stresses objectivity and independence from self-interest. That is why at this time of year we call on all of our volunteers and interest parties to our committees, to review and acknowledge the Academy’s conflict of interest policy.

We also call on our volunteer members to attest to completion of our continuing education policies to demonstrate the importance of remaining current on relevant content. These requirements make clear our agreement to abide by core principles of objectivity when performing work for Academy committees, councils, and task forces. They also help provide assurances about the nature of our work to policymakers and others who need objective and unbiased actuarial insight to inform their decisions regarding U.S. fiscal and societal challenges.

By performing these attestations, each volunteer is anticipated to understand and maintain objectivity in their activities.  It is the public’s expectation and reliance on these various activities that is the backbone of their trust and our opportunities as a profession to remain self-regulated.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank, in advance, all volunteers and interested parties in participating in this important assignation of compliance with these important principles in the conduction of Academy activities as well as thank them for the work they are dedicating their time to perform in 2015.

If you are interested in reading more about what our volunteers and interested parties I invite you to take a look at a 2011 discussion paper released by the Council on Professionalism, Conflicts of Interest When Doing Volunteer Work, which explores the definition of conflict of interest and contains practical considerations of conflicts that may arise and how to address them.

While we only ask volunteers and interested parties to acknowledge the conflict of interest policy and attest to completing their continuing education requirements formally, they apply to all Academy members. It is through our collective and individual adherence to the Precepts of the Code of Professional Conduct that your membership in the Academy should be an indicator that our profession establishes its credibility and earns the trust from those we serve.

KENNETH A. KENT, a member of the Academy and a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and the Conference of Consulting Actuaries, and an Enrolled Actuary, is the Academy’s vice president for professionalism.

Article by Tom Terry - March 2014 Actuarial Update
 
Tom TerryObjective. Independent. Effective. What do they mean at the Academy? See what Immediate Past President Tom Terry says about that in the March Actuarial UpdateClick here to read the article in full.

Article by Cecil Bykerk - March/April 2014 Contingencies Letter
 
Dave SandbergIn the March/April issue of Contingencies, Past President Cecil Bykerk wrote about the significance of professionalism and the related COI policy for the Academy. The article also noted the importance of having credibility and trust. Please click here to read this piece in full.