By Tom Campbell
Maybe I’m spending too much time inside due to a combination of the pandemic and the New England winter weather, but I’ve been getting a kick out of the series of commercials about turning into your parents. I notice that this actually happens all the time with my family and friends, and I sometimes laugh when I see such signs in my three adult sons. Of course, I’m immune to this phenomenon…
Well, maybe not always…
OK, I’ll admit it—while I’m not like the people in the commercial who make noises when they sit down in a chair (at least not always) and I know how to pronounce “quinoa,” I do sometimes find myself acting like my dad. One way in particular is when I talk to the television when watching sports. My dad is pretty mild-mannered, but my siblings and I tease him about how he gets frustrated with his beloved Yankees and calls them a “bunch of popcorns.” We don’t know where he picked up that term; maybe it was from not wanting to use stronger language in front of his children. But growing up, even though my favorite snack was popcorn, I knew I wanted to try to not be a “popcorn”!
I have noticed that children don’t become their parents when it comes to technology. I’ve observed that generally, younger generations are better with technology than older generations. I remember trying to teach Dad how to “double-click” his mouse, and realizing that my children, who were very young at the time, picked up that skill a lot more quickly. Whoever invented the double-click must not have had elderly parents! Now, I consider myself somewhat tech-savvy—I like to say that I know enough to be dangerous—and have always been able to help relatives and friends get things done on a computer. I’m usually a very patient teacher, but when they ask me to help with something that I’m not sure about, I will often joke that they should ask their children or grandchildren.
Despite my confidence with technology, I realize that there are times when I am on the learning side of things. I will often rely on others to help me with more difficult things, or to get me out of trouble when I prove that I know enough to be dangerous!
As actuaries, we need to avoid situations where we may become “dangerous.” There are times when performing actuarial services where we need help for whatever reason—for example, we are not qualified to do some part of the project, we don’t have time to do all the associated work, or someone else has more expertise in a certain aspect of the work. When we do rely on others, we need to appropriately document the extent to which we are doing so. ASOP No. 41, Actuarial Communications, suggests that unless we state reliance on others or other sources, the actuary making the actuarial communication assumes responsibility for it.
The Academy has some great resources to help us navigate these situations. One such resource is the “Up to Code” column in the January/February 2021 issue of this magazine titled “A Little Help From My Friends,” and a 2019 webinar with the same title. At the least, though, you should review ASOP No. 1, Introductory Actuarial Standard of Practice; ASOP No. 41; and the ASOPs that apply to the work you are performing. The Applicability Guidelines on the Academy website can help you determine which ASOPs might apply. All of these resources, and more, are available to Academy members on the Academy website.
So, if you are relying on others to perform some component of your actuarial services, be sure to review the appropriate ASOPs and consider documenting the extent to which you are relying on others. If there is any doubt, you can always take advantage of the counseling arm of the ABCD. I’m sure my dad would agree with me on this. He would probably say, “After all, you are paying for the ABCD through your dues.” (Dads say things like that.) And of course, I would listen—I wouldn’t want to be a “popcorn”!