Proud of the Standard: what has IFoA regulation ever done for us?

Dictionary entry for regulation, highlighted in pink

Like many people over the last two years, I spent a lot of time in front of my TV.

One of the films I re-watched in 2020 (during an overly-ambitious lockdown attempt to watch the 250 top-rated films) was Monty Python’s Life of Brian. When reflecting with a colleague on how I might approach this article, they reminded me of the famous line from that film: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”.

Sometimes it can feel a little like that when discussing the IFoA’s regulation, which is often met with resignation, sometimes even indignation, and where the benefits it brings to members, and to the wider public, can sometimes be overlooked or taken for granted.

But while we can’t claim to have brought the world aqueducts, sanitation, roads, medicine, education, wine… (and I’m not sure even the Romans could really have claimed all of that) we can confidently, and with some degree of pride, say that the IFoA’s regulation has a significant positive impact on the profession – and on the many people and organisations that directly or indirectly use actuarial services.   

The IFoA has been regulating its members and promoting professionalism since the second half of the 19th century, and that role is integral to the standing in which our members are held. When dealing with an IFoA member, there is an implicit understanding that you are engaging with a professional who has completed a rigorous programme of learning and who continues to be held to the highest of standards.

This is evident in the trust that is placed upon our members – by insurance companies to ensure they are solvent, by pension scheme trustees to ensure schemes are funded adequately, by regulators to ensure financial service sectors are well run and serve the consumer interest, by governments when developing public service initiatives (such as the pensions dashboard), and by sectors as diverse as healthcare and retail to support them with credible growth in developing markets and sustainability in mature ones.

This also means that our members are able to take pride in their status as an actuary and in being part of an IFoA community that has a shared set of values and that makes a tangible difference to society.

Although the IFoA’s role in regulating its members has a long history, we never stop looking for ways to improve how we regulate.

Over the last three years, this has been especially true. During that time we have embarked upon a significant transformation in our approach to regulation, including in key areas such as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements and our Practising Certificates system for key regulated actuarial roles.

This new approach has been directed at delivering effective regulation, ensuring our values are still maintained, but in a way that is focused more on supporting members to meet standards and less on compliance and punitive measures for failures. This is underpinned by a view that regulation can be a supportive tool, providing a clear pathway for members to produce high-quality work and to be well-rounded professionals and business leaders.

The new approach also recognises that there are different ways in which regulation can be delivered. With the benefit of input and feedback from members, as well as some creative thinking, there are often improvements that can be made so that the experience of regulation is better and simpler for those who are subject to it.

More work is planned for this transformation, including a revamped system of professional support for members.

We are also looking at how our regulation can promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), in line with the IFoA’s strategy. Through that, we have made a commitment to review and update (if necessary) the Actuaries Code, and our professional standards and guidance so that we continue to set high standards of personal behaviour and protect the reputation of the profession.

As some of the best films in that list of 250 that I have yet to complete, there’s also a twist here. The regulation we are talking about is profession-led, subject to outside accountability but with members at the heart of determining how we regulate.  This effective regulation requires each and every one of our members to take responsibility for it and to commit to ensuring that we maintain this pride in our profession.

So what has IFoA regulation ever done for us? Well, I think we can safely say a lot.