Path of Professionalism
tHe loCAl MeteoroloGISt IS SAyInG that Minnesota has skipped from March to May, signaling the
end to this year’s anemic winter. It seems to be a time of greater volatility—whether it’s the weather, politics, or
the economy. In such a climate, what is the path our profession must follow to remain relevant to our public?
My mind is drawn to a great 2011 Academy webinar in which
Ken Kent and Karen Terry examined the profession’s responsibility to the public. They posed some great questions to each other
and to the webinar attendees. As is true of all good risk management, they helped frame principles for navigating and influencing
the future. While answers are typically helpful only as long as the
past continues into the future, good questions prepare us for what
will be new about the future. I appreciated their discussion of:
■ ■ What is the significance of the 2001 adoption of a uniform
Code of Conduct by all five U.S.-based actuarial organizations?
■ ■ What does it mean to be a profession—taking into
account a 2004 Southern Illinois University study that
stated a profession “recognized responsibilities to the
public over and above responsibility to clients or to other
members of the profession”?
■ ■ How do we best fulfill our responsibility to the public?
■ ■ Who is our public?
■ ■ How do we remain relevant in fulfilling our
responsibility to the public?
The items above create a multidimensional challenge to actuaries, as we must sort out both our individual and our professional/
collective responsibility toward a non-uniform public that includes:
■ ■ Our direct client or boss,
■ ■ Our firm,
■ ■ Indirect clients who will rely on information provide
to our direct client,
■ ■ The wider public,
■ ■ Regulators, and
■ ■ The profession as a whole.
As several reports for various actuarial organizations over the
years have concluded, we fulfill those responsibilities through:
■ ■ Pre-training and qualification procedures, as well as
continuing education requirements,
■ ■ Standards of practice,
■ ■ Audit, peer review, and professional discipline.
As a self-governing, self-disciplining profession, we continually must be engaged, employing introspection and review aimed
at managing an increasingly volatile future that will be significantly unlike the past.
Such engagement is also relevant to our public policy work,
where we need to address and navigate entrenched interests
that are pushing in different directions. In the area of public
pensions, for example, there are:
1. Budget analysts who focus on balancing
a two-year budget.
2. Investment officers whose incentives and
cultures may not recognize the cost of risk
3. Anti-tax and anti-union groups that attack
public employee unions, whether such attacks
are legitimate or not.
4. Unions that have a lot of political power and
can take questioning their benefits or pay levels
as a personal attack.
5. Politicians who court union votes and
politicians who court anti-union votes.
6. News media that look for a sensational story,
whether it fits the facts or not.
A similar outline of entrenched interests
could be created for the U.S. health care system.
Our bottom line as a profession is to ensure that
while serving the public we do not become the
mouthpiece for any of these special interests.