Professional Objectivity at the Academy
The American Academy of Actuaries’ mission is to serve the public and the U.S. actuarial profession. So doing requires a steadfast commitment to the highest level of professional objectivity. To produce independent, objective, and effective actuarial information and analysis, the Academy employs rigorous processes and controls to govern its work. In addition to the outreach to all volunteers and interested parties to satisfy the conflict of interest and continuing education requirements outlined below, each year the Academy hosts an orientation session for committee chairpersons and other volunteers that includes familiarizing them with these and other processes and controls.
Conflict of Interest Acknowledgment and Continuing Education Attestation
Academy members and other individuals who serve as members or interested parties of any of its boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, task forces, and work groups, etc. (collectively “Committee”) are required to annually acknowledge the Academy’s Conflict of Interest (“COI”) Policy, which requires them to carefully consider and address any situation that may arise with respect to the members’ activity, or the activity of any member working with them, which may call into question their professional objectivity. In this acknowledgment process, all Committee members and interested parties are directed to familiarize themselves with the paper Conflicts of Interest When Doing Volunteer Work, most recently updated by the Academy in 2022. It suggests possible actions the member might consider taking if the member identifies a possible conflict of interest.
An additional requirement applies to all Academy members who are members of any Academy Committee—they must annually comply with, and attest to compliance with, the continuing education requirements of the U.S. Qualification Standards.
Background information on the COI acknowledgment and CE attestation is available here. Any question or concern about the possibility of a conflict of interest with respect to any work a member or interested party may perform on behalf of the Academy should be addressed to the member supervising the activity or to the Academy’s general counsel.
Other Processes and Resources Regarding Professional Objectivity
The Academy has other processes and controls in place supporting professional objectivity that apply to specific volunteer activities and work product. These include:
- the Academy’s “Guidelines for Making Public Statements,” which describe the Academy policy and processes that apply to any written or oral statement made on behalf of any Academy entity (i.e., board, committee, task force, or work group);
- the Academy’s “Guidelines for Developing Practice Notes,” which promote consistency of quality and style and to ensure that the practices identified in practice notes are not substitutes for conforming to the actuarial standards of practice and existing legal and regulatory requirements;
- the “Use of Academy Titles and Designations,” which provides the Academy’s policy on when a member can use the MAAA designation to identify affiliation with the Academy;
The Academy provides ongoing, additional discussion and resources regarding professional objectivity and the processes and controls governing its work, including commentary and articles by Academy leadership in Academy publications.
Article by Art Panighetti – January 2019 Actuarial Update
|Academy Volunteers and Interested Parties: Required Acknowledgment of Volunteers’ Commitment to Objectivity
By Art Panighetti
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, each year the Academy Board requires Academy volunteers—and any individual who is an interested party on a committee, whether an Academy member or not—to 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 acknowledging this commitment is now. Academy volunteers and interested parties should have received a request at the end of January 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. 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 acknowledgment of the Academy’s COI policy is one of the measures we use to cultivate and protect our commitment to objectivity and independence. Acknowledging the Academy’s COI policy 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 engaging in activities for the Academy, volunteers and interested parties are required to disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest 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 and work groups.
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” and “Guidelines for Developing Practice Notes.”
All Academy members who are members of an Academy committee or work group 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 are serving.
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 hours of relevant CE—including 6 from organized activities and 3 from professionalism topics—in 2018 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 acknowledgments promptly if you have not already done so. Follow the instructions in the Jan. 31 email or on the membership page under “Volunteer Acknowledgments.”
For more information about the Academy’s commitment to professional objectivity, please visit the Professional Objectivity at the Academy webpage. If you have questions, you may contact the Academy at email@example.com. If you experience any technical difficulties, please contact the membership department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-223-8196.
Additional Commentary and Articles
Article by D. Joeff Williams, Vice President, Council on Professionalism—January 2017 Actuarial Update
Article by Kenneth A. Kent, Vice President, Council on Professionalism—January 2015 Actuarial Update
Article by Tom Terry, Immediate Past President—March 2014 Actuarial Update
Article by Cecil Bykerk, Past President—March/April 2014 Contingencies
Questions about professional objectivity at the Academy can be directed to email@example.com.