Professionalism Counts, December 2023
New Year: A Time for Renewal
The turn of the year is a time of renewal. The old year has drawn to a close, and we look forward to lengthening days and emerging signs of spring.
The first week of the new year, before the rush begins, is a good time to pause, take stock, and renew our knowledge. We’ve long recommended reading key professionalism documents at least once a year as a refresher, and the new year is a good time to do it. You may think you know the Code of Professional Conduct, the U.S. Qualification Standards (USQS), and the actuarial standards of practice (ASOPs) that apply to your work. But when you pick them up and reread them, you will likely be reminded of some aspect that you hadn’t thought about in a while.
For example, when you think of the Code, you likely think of the fourteen Precepts. Indeed, most professionalism webinars and articles focus on the Precepts and Annotations of the Code. But the preamble to the Code contains important information, too. It lays out the purpose of the Code—to require actuaries to adhere to high standards of conduct, practice, and qualifications—and identifies the professional and ethical standards that actuaries must comply with to fulfill their responsibilities to the public and the actuarial profession.
The preamble also covers international practice, stating, “In addition to this Code, the Actuary is subject to applicable rules of professional conduct or ethical standards …for the jurisdictions in which the Actuary renders Actuarial Services.” In other words, wherever your work products are being used, you are subject to the Code, as well as any similar rules of conduct for the jurisdiction in which you are practicing. (Annotations to Precepts 2 and 3 make it clear that you should observe the standards of qualification and practice of the jurisdictions in which you are practicing.)
The preamble of the Code also clarifies that “Actuarial Services are considered to be rendered in the jurisdiction in which the Actuary intends them to be used.” This is very useful in our age of remote work—it does not matter where you are, but where the work will be used that determines which standards apply.
And one last tidbit from the preamble of the Code—the actuary must be familiar with, and keep current with, applicable law and rules of professional conduct for the jurisdictions where the actuary renders actuarial services. (The Academy’s law manuals may be helpful in this regard for U.S. law: the Life and Health Valuation Law Manual and P/C Loss Reserve Law Manual.)
Another professionalism document that you may not have looked at in a while is ASOP No. 1, Introductory Standard of Practice, which contains many useful nuggets that help you understand all the other ASOPs. For example, it discusses and defines terms frequently used in other ASOPs. Did you know that the terms defined in ASOP No. 1 apply to all ASOPs, but the terms defined in other ASOPs apply only to that ASOP? (Another resource for defined terms in ASOPs is the Actuarial Standard Board’s definitions document, updated when new and revised ASOPs are released.)
And then there are the ASOPs that apply to every assignment—ASOP No. 23, Data Quality, and ASOP No. 41, Actuarial Communications—and one that applies to almost every assignment, ASOP No. 56, Modeling. Of course, a refresher of the ASOPs that apply more specifically to what you are working on is always a good idea.
Last but not least are the qualification standards. Even if you are an experienced actuary, a review of the qualification standards before accepting a new assignment is always a good idea. If, after reading the qualification standards and the Frequently Asked Questions on the USQS, you are still unsure whether you are qualified for a particular assignment, you may contact the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (ABCD) with a request for guidance. An ABCD member will walk through your education and experience with you to help you determine whether you are qualified, and if not, how you might become qualified.
So take a few minutes to renew and refresh some of your professionalism knowledge. It will stand you in good stead as we enter the new year!