The Actuary’s Duty to the Public Interest

The Actuary’s Duty to the Public Interest

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The IAA’s PG1 Principles of Professionalism contains a provision that members should act in the public interest. This is replicated in the Code of Professional Conduct of the Actuarial Society of South Africa, which is the primary normative standard for South African actuaries. I argue that this results in an obligation, that actuaries have a duty to act in the public interest. The nature of this duty ranges from narrow to broad, and a broad conception is favoured. Several arguments in support of the public interest duty are discussed. The main justification is the provision of negative and positive protections for the public. My view is that the positive protections should come from outside the profession. In opposition, I argue why I think the public interest duty for actuaries cannot be supported. It raises too many problems, such as not being able to keep the promise, and inconsistency with a duty to manage conflicts of interest. It is too vague, leading to problems with enforcement, for example. Also, the public interest is properly the role of the state, rather than the actuarial profession. For these reasons, I propose that the public interest duty be removed from the Code of Professional Conduct. I argue that this will not detract from the primary professional obligation, which is to provide a quality service to clients.

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