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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

President’s address: Ronnie Bowie - Setting the standard

Last month I used the three words ‘engage, deliver and inspire’ to provide a framework for our plans for the coming year. One of the key tasks under ‘engage’ is for us all to reach a shared understanding of the need for, and the benefits of, professionalism. In particular, I hope to reach a shared acceptance of the need for, and the shape of, our evolving continuing professional development (CPD) scheme.

In his introduction to the recent consultation on the proposed revisions to the CPD scheme, Sir Philip Mawer said: “Actuaries pride themselves on their learning, not only at the point of entry to the profession but throughout their careers. They acknowledge that one quality that marks a profession is acceptance of responsibility, in the public interest, to keep competence up to date throughout professional life.”

My sense is that our members would support this statement and regard keeping up to date as a matter of professional and personal pride, as well as a commercial necessity. What has caused more difficulty and division in recent years has been how the profession has defined what constitutes keeping up to date and how it has monitored and policed it.

Some actuaries who are not working in traditional areas have expressed concerns that we may be requiring CPD to be in a form not relevant to them nor to their area of work. I am concerned that some actuaries may feel that what they perceive as a CPD burden has become so great that it outweighs any perceived benefits of being able to call themselves an actuary.

I take these concerns seriously, not least because our ambitions for the members of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries are that an ever-growing proportion of the membership will be engaged outside the traditional areas. It is critical, therefore that, as a professional body, we are seen to be supporting rather than hindering our members in those areas. We must try to ensure that, as far as possible, the discipline of our CPD scheme reinforces the actuarial reputation for quality and professionalism as a competitive advantage.

For all actuaries the key requirement is that the CPD they undertake must be technically and professionally relevant to their particular work. This gives wide scope to tailor the CPD to each actuary’s particular role. For actuaries other than practising certificate holders, to whom additional considerations apply, the CPD scheme allows the bulk of keeping up to date to be done through private study (for example, reading relevant publications). A total of 15 hours such study each year does not seem to me to be too much of a burden.

Similarly, the requirement to spend at least five hours each year at events does not seem too onerous given that the definition of events is so wide (and is not restricted to events run by the profession). The key stipulation on events is that they should, again, be relevant to the actuary’s work and that they should, at least in part, involve interaction with people outside the actuary’s normal work environment. It is important that we keep our horizons broad.

Finally, there is a requirement that, once every 10 years, actuaries should attend a professionalism event run by the profession. Feedback on these events has been broadly positive, but I recognise more can be done to ensure they really add value to members’ professional lives. Work is under way on a revamp of these events.

Given the general willingness of all actuaries to keep themselves fully equipped for their particular work, I do not regard the CPD requirements as being unnecessarily onerous. Indeed, they represent a minimum which I would expect most members to comfortably exceed.

When we look at the FSA’s requirements for ‘responsible persons’, or The Pensions Regulator’s requirements on Trustee Knowledge and Understanding, we find requirements on keeping up to date which are higher than our own CPD scheme. So by benchmarking against these and other external measures we can test how our own regime compares. The Profession itself continues to look at ways of increasing the range, depth and means of delivery of CPD. We are also looking at ways of collaboration with other bodies that may have events which would be of interest to certain of our members.

We are acutely aware that members and their employers are increasingly concerned about value for money. We will continue to look for ways that deliver the necessary CPD opportunities at an attractive price. In time, we wish to move from the current counting-the-time-spent system of CPD monitoring to one which is about assessing the learning achieved.

For the moment, however, I would encourage all members to see the CPD scheme as a useful framework for the continuing development they would be doing anyway; a framework whose existence gives considerable comfort to those whose trust in us is the greater because we continue to earn the right to call ourselves actuaries.

As always I am keen to receive any comments from you at ronnie.bowie@actuaries.org.uk