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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Do the right thing


Derek Cribb describes how the IFoA supports continued professionalism training and outlines the opportunities using these resources can bring 

It is being able to look in the mirror and be honest that you have done what you reasonably can to prepare for tough decisions

Whether qualified or not, I think we all recognise the importance of keeping our skills up to date, making sure that what we bring to our professional roles is a set of knowledge that is relevant and of value. But is keeping our technical skills relevant sufficient for us to define ourselves as professionals?

I’ve been involved in a number of discussions recently that question not the technical elements of lifelong learning, whether that is examinations or CPD, but the need for learning about professionalism on an ongoing basis. I must admit to an element of dismay every time the discussion happens. The rather circular argument that runs: “I am a professional, I work with other professionals every day in a professional environment, therefore my professionalism is inherent and formal training is not needed,” has yet to win me over. It has the same credibility to me as believing hanging around with athletes will make one fit!

Where we see professionals caught up in a scandal, there are usually one of two causes: ‘doing things wrong’ or ‘doing the wrong thing’. The former is the less common and usually less severe. It encapsulates the downside of not keeping your technical skills up to date. While they are a basic need for anyone in gainful employment, technical skills do not make anyone a professional. The latter is the greater risk, and hence needs real focus. It is key to maintaining the reputation of our members, the IFoA and the profession as a whole. 

Professionals do the right thing. This is not about every member serving the public interest, or having the wisdom of Solomon in all decisions, but about being able to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself that you have done what you reasonably can to prepare yourself for tough and challenging decisions, which you then take to the best of your ability. These rarely come along to a pre-published schedule and it is best to be forearmed.

But we cannot expect to know how to make difficult judgments by osmosis. We need some structure to help us prepare for the challenges that will come. To achieve any of our qualifications, be it Certified Actuarial Analyst, Associate or Fellow, you must prove not only strong technical skills but also an understanding of professionalism and its application, and this must develop over time. The IFoA has invested heavily in a suite of online and face-to-face tools to help you become a high-calibre professional. One great example is the IFoA professionalism videos. These are used globally by members of the IFoA, other actuarial associations and indeed non-actuaries as a cornerstone of their training. 

The latest step forward is the IFoA’s Professionalism Series of lectures. Over the next year we will be staging a series of landmark lectures aimed at promoting awareness about the importance and relevance of professionalism in financial services, positioning the IFoA and its members firmly as a leader in the field. We started the series in January and so far have held events, targeted both at our global membership and wider stakeholder community in Gibraltar, London, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. In May we will be hearing from Dr Moses Cheng, chair of Hong Kong’s new Independent Insurance Authority, at the opening of our third annual Asia Conference. He has a real passion for professionalising all aspects of the insurance industry, recognising that some IFoA initiatives, such as the Certified Actuarial Analyst and Quality Assurance Scheme, are enablers of that professionalisation. 

We have a number of keynote speakers lined up for the year ahead, including our own Benny Higgins FFA, who will be chairing a panel in London on 11 October, Sir Win Bischoff (19 October at GIRO, Edinburgh) and Lord Myners (early 2018), so please keep an eye out on our events page for the opportunity to join in the debate and discussion, and to develop your skills as a professional. 

Life-long learning is not a regulatory chore, it is what helps define you as a professional and supports your personal development. Viewed through this lens, a whole world of potential opportunities could open up before you. For more information, the regulatory team can be contacted on regulation@actuaries.org.uk

The IFoA’s Professionalism videos can be accessed at: bit.ly/actuariesprofskills. 

Details of the IFoA’s Asia conference can be found at: bit.ly/IFoAasiaconference

The IFoA’s events schedule can be found at: 

Derek Cribb is the chief executive of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries