CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
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December 2013

Professionalism: It’s Worth the Effort!

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By Jacques Lafrance, FCIA
CIA President

You may have noticed that the Institute has recently stepped up its efforts to provide current and future members with training opportunities in the area of professionalism. Here are some examples:

  • At the last Annual Meeting, two sessions dealt specifically with professionalism. A rousing success, they addressed serious questions in a very interactive and entertaining way.
  • In December the Institute offered a webcast on professionalism in English and French that presented fictional (yet realistic) case studies and offered food for thought on ways of instituting professional behaviours.
  • We expanded the Professionalism Workshop (participation in this workshop is a prerequisite for becoming an Associate or Fellow of the Institute) so that it delves more deeply into this subject.
  • Early in 2014 the Institute will hold a half-day session on professionalism and ethics for more senior members. This pilot event will be held in Toronto as a facilitated forum for peer discussion. Watch for more details in January.

In passing, I would like to sincerely thank the volunteers and headquarters staff who helped make these initiatives possible.

I applaud the Institute’s efforts to place a greater emphasis on issues pertaining to professionalism. As a professional organization, the Institute must do more to ensure that its members maintain a high level of professionalism. While our profession is not experiencing serious problems regarding our members’ ethics, we must remain vigilant and promote irreproachable behaviour.

In this regard, I wish to note that the Institute has adopted guiding principles and the first one reads as follows: "In carrying out its activities and programs, the Institute holds the duty of the profession to the public above the needs of the profession and its members." In my opinion, the notion of "holds the duty of the profession to the public above . . ." underscores the priority that the Institute must attach to maintaining a high level of professionalism on the part of its members.

I don’t have time in this article to elaborate on what the responsibility of acting professionally actually entails. But if I may, I’d like to point out a few of the important elements: honesty, courtesy, respect, competence, a desire to do the job right, disclosure of conflicts of interest, clear communication, and proactivity. A simple way of determining whether an action or behaviour corresponds to what a professional would do could be to ask the question: what would a group of people, experts and lay persons alike, think of the professionalism of this action or behaviour?

Naturally, when confronted with a problematic situation that could bring their ethics into question, professionals should not hesitate to ask advice of someone they trust. This could be a lawyer if the gravity or complexity of the situation warrants. The Institute is also at your disposal, particularly when it comes to interpreting our Rules of Professional Conduct and Standards of Practice.

Speaking of our Rules and Standards of Practice, it is clear that Institute members must comply with these. But it is not enough to simply conform to the letter of these documents. As professionals, actuaries must also seek to abide by the spirit of the Rules in their actions and in the advice they give.

Behaving like a professional increases the likelihood of having a successful career, as well as building and maintaining a solid reputation. But beyond a rewarding and fulfilling career, acting with professionalism and honesty affords peace of mind. And you can’t put a price tag on that!

All the best for the holiday season, and I wish you much happiness in 2014. 

Jacques Lafrance, FCIA, is President of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.


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