sign a conflict of interest (COI) and
continuing education (CE) attestation
■ ■ That they have read and are obligated
to adhere to the COI policy;
■ ■ That they have met and are current
with the annual CE requirements
as set forth in the U.S. Qualification
It’s important that Academy members, along with the policymakers and
standard setters with whom they engage,
know that COI is more than an Academy
policy. It’s a manifestation of the Academy’s overall culture.
The COI policy, CE requirements,
and annual attestations are mechanisms
for achieving quality work that serves
the interests of the American public and
the U.S. actuarial profession. Annual
attestation is a means by which every
Academy volunteer visibly and tangibly
acknowledges that—meeting by meeting
and discussion by discussion—his or her
work for the Academy is free of conflicts.
Attestation is not a magic wand of
objectivity. It’s acknowledging practical
behavior in the real world.
Every Academy volunteer with a day
job has other “interests.” And it’s the
experience from those day jobs and interests that brings diverse, deep, valuable
expertise to the Academy’s work. You are
a better volunteer when you are an experienced practitioner. You understand
complexity and consequences more
fully. At the same time, Academy work
demands your commitment to objectivity without advocacy for an employer or
from a client viewpoint.
Over the years, I have seen firsthand
how Academy volunteers who serve on
its board of directors, practice councils,
committees, work groups, and task forces
are expected to and do acknowledge and
deal with potential external influences or
biases. Our principles and our leadership
encourage and require all of us who vol-
unteer here to do this, thereby upholding
our objectivity and independence in
support of the public’s and profession’s
interests. This is a never-ceasing process
of constant diligence. It’s not just attesta-
tion and done. It’s our modus operandi.
All of these processes of compliance
and disclosure reflect the Academy’s
commitment to setting the professionalism bar high for its volunteers, who
serve as ambassadors to the rest of the
profession and our public in the way they
conduct themselves with integrity.
Credibility and Trust, Our
Just as the Academy must carry out its
mission with objectivity, an individual
actuary must perform his or her work
When it comes to actuarial practice, technical expertise is essential.
But expertise doesn’t necessarily yield
credibility. Our professionalism must be
applied and made visible in our work if
we are to gain the trust and credibility of
the public, those who use our services,
and those who regulate the sectors in
which we practice.
The Academy is the place where the
professional interests of the individual
actuary and those of the actuarial profession as a whole converge. Credibility and
trust flow from proficient application of
the Academy’s professionalism “
ecosystem,” out of which all the following
emanate: the Code of Professional Conduct, the U.S. Qualification Standards,
and the actuarial standards of practice.
It’s what elevates actuaries from a collective of risk assessors with strong math
skills to a profession—and earns the trust
of the public and our principals alike.
With this in mind, I call on all Academy members who don’t currently
volunteer to look at the extent to which
our volunteers go in order to inculcate
credibility and trust so that the profession will be strengthened—and to
consider joining their ranks by volunteering themselves.
Process, Precepts, and Peers
Please know that the process to uphold
the objectivity and independence of
our Academy work is rigorous. Beyond
the COI policy and CE compliance, volunteers can gain reference points by
looking at Precept 7 of the Code of Professional Conduct and a discussion paper
produced by the Academy’s Council on
Professionalism, Conflicts of Interest
When Doing Volunteer Work. This paper
helps Academy members identify actual or potential conflicts of interest they
might have as an Academy volunteer,
and provides concrete actions to address
Also important are the multiple levels of peer and internal Academy review
that ensure balance and effectiveness
in its work. Because the Academy’s
work includes direct interaction with
policymakers and regulators making critical legislative and regulatory decisions,
nothing is released until it has been scrutinized and approved.
What You Can Do
A strong profession is strengthened by a
strong Academy. If we are to build from
this strength, each of us can be more active to help. If you’re a volunteer, you
can continue to reinforce the Academy’s
culture of objectivity and inform others
about the rigor employed to maintain
it. If you’re member, you can share this
commentary and Academy work with
your peers to help increase awareness
Our credibility depends on it.
CECIL BYKERK is the Academy’s
immediate past president.
Annual attestation is a
means by which every
Academy volunteer visibly
and tangibly acknowledges
that—meeting by meeting
and discussion by
discussion—his or her
work for the Academy is
free of conflicts.