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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

CPD is for life, not just for certificates

Continuing professional development (CPD) within the actuarial profession is undergoing a necessary facelift. Changes in the actuarial educational syllabus and in the breadth of areas covered by actuarial work are acting as catalysts.
The use of the Internet is also touching the world of CPD. If we set up web-cams live to sessional meetings and you watch from the comfort of your own desk or home, does this count as formal or informal CPD? Would you welcome online facilities to help you identify CPD requirements, advise you about relevant CPD events, or record your CPD?
Getting the right answers to these questions will become increasingly important as the role of CPD broadens. As part of the current education strategy review, formal examinations seem set to evolve to provide more generalised grounding in actuarial principles alongside specialised options. CPD is likely to pick up the rest and the CPD Committee’s action plan reflects the possibility of developing CPD in technical subjects, like the existing financial economics courses and certificates in derivatives. Material in health and care is being launched this month and we also hope to offer CPD modules in management skills shortly.
From a CPD perspective, qualification is just the beginning. A recent letter in The Actuary captured perfectly that euphoric mood of someone who has just completed the exams. Time for a drink to celebrate all that hard work, all those obstacles overcome and, best of all, no more studying! A natural reaction, but learning cannot stop there. No professional qualification can cover everything you will need throughout your professional career. Membership of any profession brings with it responsibilities beyond obtaining formal qualifications. We all need to make sure that we remain up to date with the never-ending stream of developments in our work in order to do a professional job for our clients and employers. Members of a profession are expected to keep their knowledge complete and their integrity high.
The actuarial profession is encouraging a culture of what is fashionably known in government circles as lifelong learning. This culture is one in which schooling, degrees, professional exams, and training courses are just milestones. Along the road we are also learning other skills through work, reading, and social activities. Given that actuarial stereotype is much maligned for ineptitude in social situations, should a night on the town legitimately count as a valuable contribution to professional development? Do your qualification celebratory drinks qualify as your first CPD event? Successfully putting the case to your employer that they should meet the costs of such an occasion might develop some valuable negotiation and communication skills. A workshop on networking skills might be more acceptable!

Technical skills
Initially, the actuarial profession’s CPD scheme focused on how actuaries were keeping their technical skills up to date. These skills complement the basic actuarial training obtained through passing the examinations. We have always encouraged the interchange of professional information through members publishing papers and then debating the content with other members of the profession at meetings. The format of these meetings has evolved over time to meet the changing needs of the profession. As well as Faculty and Institute meetings roughly once a month, the profession now runs about one conference or seminar a week on technical subjects.
In a small profession, conferences are always full of familiar faces, and debate flows freely. Even though we work for competing employers, active discussions are important on a professional level. The conferences also provide a forum for much of our research into technical areas with discussions leading to suggestions for areas which are worth researching before the next conference.

Business and management skills
Today’s CPD scheme encourages actuaries to develop business and management skills not covered by the examinations skills which can increase our effectiveness as individuals working within modern organisations. Specific topics might include report writing, presentation, or influencing skills, extending to broader general management and personal skills. Actuaries with these skills may be able to take up more influential positions in business and commerce. There are plans to make available distance-learning materials in these subjects, supplying modules developed by the government’s standard-making body for management skills. The latest edition of the CPD handbook also provides some guidance for those considering taking an MBA degree.

The CPD scheme also covers the knowledge and skills actuaries need to understand their responsibilities as professionals. These professional skills come from the standards that the public and those who employ actuaries expect of a member of a leading profession.
All actuaries have to attend a professionalism course within their first year of qualification. This includes instruction on the profession’s code of conduct and disciplinary scheme as well as working through difficult case studies to help expose some of the ethical problems. These encourage participants to think hard about their own personal values and what the public expects of them. A course on professionalism is also available for more experienced actuaries to consider these issues in more depth.

The requirements
For some qualified actuaries, CPD is a mandatory requirement in order to obtain a formal practising certificate allowing them to assume roles with particular official responsibilities. These include members acting as appointed actuary to life insurance companies, members acting as scheme actuary to a pension scheme, those signing opinions on Lloyd’s syndicates, and members authorised to give investment advice. All these actuaries are required to devote a specified amount of time to keeping up to date in the technical background relevant to their official roles. For other members it is recommended practice to complete the same amount of CPD, but they can be more flexible about the technical areas on which they focus.
The minimum standard in any year is 15 hours of formal CPD and at least one hour per week of informal CPD. The responsibility for determining which events rank as formal CPD rests with individuals, although guidance is published by the Institute and Faculty in the CPD handbook.
In response to the rapid pace of change across all areas, we all need to reconsider the role of CPD in our professional lives. It is the personal benefit of undergoing training and development which should be driving CPD activities. Currently, many actuaries regard CPD as a means to an end the need for a practising certificate or authorisation to give investment advice. The spirit behind the guidelines on what counts as formal and informal CPD is more important than quibbling over how to classify a particular activity. Exercise some actuarial judgement: what have you learned?
Learning is not just about passing exams and obtaining certificates. All actuaries are encouraged to broaden their outlook look beyond your current field of expertise when planning your CPD. But, most of all, keep learning and developing as a professional.
If you have any other suggestions about CPD, please contact your CPD coordinator at your place of work or write direct to the CPD Committee. Address your comments to Susanna Reece at Napier House or susannar@actuaries.org.uk. How can the profession make your lifelong learning easier?

What is CPD?
Our CPD scheme has been developing continually since its establishment in 1992. It is incorporated within the actuarial code of conduct, which defines CPD as ‘the maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skill, and the development of the personal qualities, necessary for the execution of professional and associated technical duties throughout the actuary’s working life’.