By Tom Campbell
Early May is one of my favorite times of the year. I especially like May 4—and not because I am a Star Wars fanatic. May the fourth is “with me” because it is my birthday (and it’s a big one this year), and my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding anniversary. But early May is also the time of year that brings nice weather to my home in Connecticut—I can get outside more often and go for hikes and bike rides. Of course, when I do this I need direction so as not to get lost, so I will often rely on GPS.
Mark Twain, who lived in Connecticut for almost 20 years, is attributed with the quote “everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” There’s also a saying that the four seasons in Connecticut are Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Road Construction. While I guess it’s true that nobody does anything about the weather, people not only talk about road construction, they do something about it. In fact, the downside of early May is that you can’t go very far without running into roadwork, and there is almost constant talk about infrastructure, especially the state of our roads, bridges, and tunnels.
As members of the Academy, we should almost constantly talk about the infrastructure of our professionalism. Instead of roads, bridges, and tunnels, our professionalism infrastructure consists of:
- The Code of Professional Conduct, which sets forth what it means for an actuary to act as a professional;
- The U.S. Qualification Standards, which was developed and is maintained by the Academy’s Committee on Qualifications (COQ) and sets forth the qualification requirements for practicing actuaries;
- The actuarial standards of practice, which are promulgated by the Actuarial Standards Board (ASB) and provide guidance to practicing actuaries when they perform actuarial services; and
- The counseling and discipline process, which is led by the Actuarial Board of Counseling and Discipline (ABCD).
If you think about it, this infrastructure is a critical part of supporting what with do as actuaries, which is an important part of society. Whether we work to protect income-earning potential, retirement security, health, property, or other assets, actuaries play a significant role in helping virtually every American, from before their birth until after their death.
The professionalism infrastructure also allows our profession to be self-regulated. The U.S. actuarial profession is somewhat unique from other professions in that we are not licensed by the government (other than Enrolled Actuaries). It is this professionalism infrastructure that allows us to build the public’s trust in our work and to continue to allow our profession to continue to be self-regulated.
As the national organization of the U.S. actuarial profession, the Academy is the foundation for and is instrumental in supporting this infrastructure. The Academy established and continues to maintain the Code of Professional Conduct and the U.S. Qualification Standards, and established within our legal structure the ASB and the ABCD, which we house and continue to support.
As actuaries practicing in the U.S., it is our responsibility to be well-versed in how our professionalism infrastructure works. The profession’s GPS in navigating this is the Academy website, where we can find a wealth of information on these topics—it’s even mobile-friendly. In fact, we should all review the four-part series on the “Web of Professionalism,” which was authored by former Academy President Tom Wildsmith and first appeared in this publication. This series examines the professionalism infrastructure and explores how the Academy developed it. The series has been redesigned as a standalone publication, which can be found at actuary.org/Web.
We should constantly talk about this infrastructure—in fact, the U.S. Qualification Standards require a minimum number of continuing education hours to include professionalism topics. We should also “do something” about this infrastructure by engaging with it. For instance, you can send questions directly to the COQ, and the ABCD, and you can comment on exposures from the COQ and the ASB. I encourage everyone to follow the activities of these group and respond when asked for input.
So yes, let’s all get outside and enjoy the weather, and let’s do so safely and keep our distance when it’s needed. But let’s also keep our professionalism in mind, and let’s continue to talk about how the infrastructure of professionalism affects our work as actuaries. As you do this, “May the Fourth be with you.”