CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
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October 2015
 
 

Education’s Role in the Protection of the Public Interest

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By Alicia Rollo, CHRL

As the calendar year comes to an end, it’s natural to reflect on what we have accomplished over the past year and to look forward to what lies ahead for 2016. In the September (e)Bulletin, Angelita Graham, Chair of the Eligibility and Education Council (EEC), gave an update on many of this year’s activities, and mentioned a number of new initiatives for 2016. There is no shortage of projects keeping both CIA volunteers and Head Office staff busy.

Focus on Professionalism

One area of recent focus for the EEC is professionalism, which is driven by the Institute’s Guiding Principle #1—the protection of the public interest. This is the primary reason that the CIA has taken a more active role in recent years with respect to education, particularly given the major role it plays in the CIA’s qualification requirements. The CIA has the responsibility to ensure that our Associates (ACIAs) and Fellows (FCIAs) have the well-rounded knowledge, technical skills, and business acumen to be successful professionals who truly understand the importance of their role in society, and which gives them the foundation for success, either in a traditional actuarial career, or in new industries and areas of business.

One of the CIA’s operational goals is to define what it means to be a professional in the Canadian actuarial community. The EEC recently created a new Committee on Professionalism within the CIA, chaired by Kim Young, that continues to work on this goal through discussions with a variety of stakeholders, including experienced members, committees, councils, and the Board. The end vision from an education perspective is to have a professionalism framework for the CIA, which will help members at all career stages, and which encourages a lifelong commitment to learning and the enhancement of their roles as professionals. Training in and practical application of technical actuarial concepts, professionalism and ethics, and business acumen are vital components of the Institute’s qualification requirements for ACIAs and FCIAs, but of course learning does not stop with the achievement of a professional designation. Being a professional means a commitment to lifelong learning. The CIA is here to support members in that journey.

Professionalism and Ethics

At the recent International Actuarial Association (IAA) meeting in Vancouver, the CIA invited a guest speaker to address the President’s Forum, a gathering of the leadership of many IAA member associations. Diane Girard, PhD, a consultant in professional and business ethics, and professor of ethics at McGill, spoke passionately about professionalism and ethics in practice and the challenges for actuaries. She also reminded us of our duty to help members. Her comments resonated deeply with me, and I thought it would be useful to share some of them with you.

Girard opened with the statement that being recognized as a professional is a privilege. As actuarial professionals, you are trusted by the public for your knowledge and technical abilities, but the public expects more from a professional than from the average person. It’s not enough to be technically competent and it’s not just about abiding by the Rules of Professional Conduct or Standards of Practice. These are intended as minimum standards. In ethics, we must think about the impact of our decisions and how our actions will affect the public.

Balancing Shifting Needs

The public is generally accepted to mean society as a whole, rather than a specific interest group. But who is it really and how will our decisions impact it? As actuarial professionals, you regularly must balance the shifting needs and perspectives of a variety of stakeholders. Your employer, your client, regulators, and the end users/recipients of the product of your work are all important stakeholders—are there any others? Girard also reminded us about stakeholders of the future—those who perhaps aren’t part of the immediate picture, but who may be affected down the road. Has the impact on them been considered? A key question is: Who will suffer as a result of our decisions? Her answer seemed obvious—those who we did not consider. How do we ensure we take all interests into consideration? Do we use a systematic process for considering all stakeholders? How does one balance all of those needs with independence and objectivity? This is the essence of professionalism and how you will be ultimately judged as a professional.

Girard then broke the challenges faced by actuarial professionals into four main categories:

  • Pressures – does the professional actuary have sufficient autonomy?
  • Conflict of roles – where does the loyalty lie?
  • Conflicts of values – efficiency, profitability, competition, organizational success, personal success.
  • Fear of reprisals – is speaking up a career-limiting move?

Her final question still lingers with me: Are CIA members prepared to face and respond to these very human challenges?

Are CIA Members Prepared?

Yes, the CIA provides professionalism training as a requirement for new ACIAs, and yes, four hours of Professionalism Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is required every two years. Yes, we have established Rules of Professional Conduct and Standards of Practice, and a discipline system for dealing with transgressions, but are these just minimum standards?

What more can the CIA proactively do? How can we better equip members to deal with these very real challenges? These are the questions that we will continue to ask as we develop our professionalism framework. If you have thoughts about professionalism or ethics issues, or ideas for how the CIA can help you, we welcome them! Please direct suggestions, feedback, and comments to Alicia Rollo, the CIA’s director of membership, education, and professional development at alicia.rollo@cia-ica.ca.

Alicia Rollo, CHRL, is the CIA’s director of membership, education, and professional development.

 

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