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60 seconds with... Alan Watson

Alan Watson, Leader of the Scottish Board, Council member and a member of the Actuaries’ Code Working Party, talks about the updated Actuaries’ Code and why changes have been made


6 JUNE 2019 | THE ACTUARY TEAM

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Alan Watson


Why has the Actuaries’ Code been updated?

The Code was introduced in 2008. Since then, both the IFoA and the profession have changed markedly. Increasing numbers of IFoA members now work outside the UK, or in non-traditional actuarial roles. If we expect our members to abide by the Code, it’s essential that it remains relevant, up to date and fit for purpose.  


Who did you discuss/consult with regarding the changes?

We started reviewing the Code in 2016. A working party was put together and opinions were gathered from across the membership, so that we could be confident we were being as representative as possible. There was a full public consultation on the proposals, which provided a lot of interesting feedback.

The Code was benchmarked against other regulators’ Codes of Conduct. We also liaised with the FRC, IAA and EAA. 


Why is the Code important?

Under the Royal Charter the IFoA is tasked with protecting the public interest by promoting high standards of professionalism, so the Code is an integral part of the IFoA’s regulatory regime. It’s also how we hold members to account and enables the public to have confidence in us as a regulator and professional body.


What does the Code say?

The Code has six principles that members are expected to adhere to in their professional lives, and in their personal lives where their actions could have a bearing on the profession. The principles are Integrity, Competence and Care, Impartiality, Compliance, Speaking Up and Communication. Each principle is backed up by amplifications, which are examples of behaviours expected under that principle. 


Why has Speaking Up been redrafted as a standalone principle?

The requirement to Speak Up has always been part of the Compliance principle, but the feedback from members was that it wasn’t sufficiently visible. Speaking up, raising concerns, challenging others and reporting non-compliance are all important attributes of being an actuary. This merited a standalone principle. 

The IFoA’s guidance on whistleblowing has been redrafted to bring it in line with the principle of Speaking Up and now forms part of the new guidance to the Code. Whistleblowing entails reporting wrongdoing or illegalities to the authorities or other regulators, and is often required in law. Whistleblowing is just one of a range of issues that Speaking Up encompasses. 


Have there been many changes to the other principles?

One of the main objectives in updating the Code was to simplify it and provide clarity on the nature of the obligations. This has been done by simplifying the language, introducing the words ‘must’ and ‘should’ and making the Code more principles-based. 


What else is being done to help members apply the Code?

This felt like a good opportunity to produce guidance on the Code for members by creating a comprehensive source of advice covering ethical issues. The guidance gives a lot of pragmatic information on how to apply each of the principles in practice. Given the variety of issues covered, it’s a long document, so it has been published as an accessible, interactive online tool at bit.ly/2Gvp4bf. We encourage all members to take a look and familiarise themselves with it.


If I have any questions about the updated Code, who can I speak to?

The IFoA regulation team is the best place to start. The IFoA also continues to offer the invaluable Professional Support Service, which allows members to submit questions on professional and technical standards to experienced panel members – find it at bit.ly/2Ff1z5G