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Professionalism is a cultural imperative

The UK’s Financial Reporting Council (FRC) describes its mission as promoting transparency and integrity in business. So it was fitting that Sir Winfried Bischoff, Chairman at the FRC delivered the next in our Professionalism Lecture Series at IFoA’s GIRO Conference 2017 at Edinburgh’s EICC.

Sir Winfried Bischoff
Sir Winfried Bischoff

Bischoff talked about how actuarial work is imperative to a strong economy. “Over the past year, we have seen an unprecedented wave of political change both in the UK and globally. In this climate, it is even more important that the UK’s financial services, and you as actuaries at the heart of this industry, support business and attract global investment. The FRC is very much aware that post-Brexit, our financial services will help keep business match-fit for global competition.”

Bischoff explained to the audience that professionalism is a cultural imperative in any business. He argued that where there is a healthy culture, the systems, the procedures, the overall functioning and mutual support of an organisation work effectively together. “A poor culture is, in my view a significant business risk in itself. That applies, no less, to the professions”.

An FRC-led report in 2016 on “Corporate Culture and the Role of Boards” found that in order to establish a corporate culture, a board must define the purpose and values of the company. It must also consider the type of behaviours it wishes to promote in order to deliver its business strategy.

“A company must integrate new leaders into that culture and determine whether different parts of the business should operate different cultures” said Bischoff. “Shareholders should be engaged in constructive discussions along with wider stakeholders so that companies are not only successful in the long term but also benefit society as a whole”.

Bischoff applauded the IFoA for its work on the Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) which recognises that actuaries do not work in isolation from the company in which they work. He said it “supports professionalism by promoting confidence in actuarial work, identifying issues affecting its quality”.

He ended his lecture by emphasising that the FRC and the IFoA must be forward looking, with a reminder that standards need to kept up to date and evolve as actuaries roles develop in the future.

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