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The general principle of impartiality

5.1 Principle 3 of the Code provides that:

Members must ensure that their professional judgement is not compromised, and cannot reasonably be seen to be compromised, by bias, conflict of interest, or the undue influence of others.”

5.2 Impartiality can be described as the principle that decisions ought to be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring to benefit one person over another for improper reasons.


Exercising professional judgment

5.3 A Member exercising professional judgement will need to do so, and be seen to do so, in a way which is free from bias (actual or perceived) and that ensures they are able to give advice which is independent of any personal interests or feelings.

Resolve or desist from acting

5.4 From time to time, Members may be exposed to situations that risk impairing their objectivity.  If the circumstances of an instruction, relationship with a user and/or other factors increase the risk of compromising the impartiality of a Member’s professional judgement over the course of a piece of work, then the Member may be better not to accept the instruction.  If, having accepted an instruction, a Member identifies circumstances that compromise, or are seen to compromise, their professional judgement, the Member will need to desist from acting; this may involve explaining the situation to the user and helping them make alternative arrangements.


What would a fair-minded observer think?

5.5 When thinking about impartiality, Members will need to ask themselves whether there is any conflict between the advice which they are giving, or decisions which they are making, and their own personal interests.  A good test is to imagine a fair-minded and informed observer: would this person have any reason to suspect that your impartiality might be compromised?[1]  If so, action will need to be taken to rectify this.


Ethical bias

5.6 Threats to a Member’s impartiality might include being asked to act in a way that contravenes a Member’s duties under the Code, other professional requirements or even the law.  Members directly employed by an organisation might face particular pressures to carry out work in a way that is favourable to the commercial interests of that organisation and will need to be careful to avoid misleading regulators, boards or other users.

Technical bias

5.7 When considering the potential for bias, Members need be aware that there are many forms of bias, including ethical and technical bias.  Some examples of bias might include situations where a technical methodology is selected because the Member is familiar with it, even if others are more appropriate (that is not to say that using a technique that can be applied quickly is necessarily wrong; rather that Members need to be clear about the justification for their chosen approach) or where a Member is reluctant to challenge the work of a colleague who is also friend, even though such a challenge would be appropriate.

5.8 Members can mitigate the risk of acting in a way which is biased by being aware of the potential for bias and taking this into account when making decisions or providing advice to ensure they are acting impartially. Being open to appropriate challenge from others and being willing to change or adapt one’s approach can also help to mitigate the risk of acting in a way which is biased, as it is possible to hold a bias and not even be aware of it.

Institutional bias or Group Think

5.9 A further threat to impartiality that Members ought to be aware of is the potential influence of ‘Group Think’ in their decision-making. Group Think is defined as “the tendency for one’s own judgement to be influenced by the apparent consensus view of assumptions, methods, processes or approaches leading to a reduction in the variety of ideas in the market”.[2]

5.10 One of the dangers of Group Think is that it has the potential to result in poor conduct or systematic business failures brought on by working environments in which perspectives are not challenged and people act in the same way as others do without sufficient justification.

5.11 Members can address this risk by being aware of their propensity to participate in Group Think in the first place and by being prepared to challenge or speak up where processes or approaches are not appropriate for the work being carried out.  When making decisions in relation to a piece of work, Members may wish to ask themselves whether, in following the crowd, they are doing so because it is easier (or they are reluctant to challenge the status quo) or because it is appropriate to the work.


Conflicts of interest

See further on Conflicts of Interest


[1] This is the test for bias as set out by Lord Hope in Porter v Magill [2002] 2 AC 357, which states that: “The question is whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the [Tribunal] was biased”.

[2] This is the definition of “Group Think” as set out in the review by the Joint Forum on Actuarial Regulation’ on Group Think - https://www.actuaries.org.uk/documents/jfar-review-group-think

The Review includes guidance for individual actuaries on how to address Group Think.

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Events calendar

  • IFoA Joint Member Event with the Sunshine Insurance Group, Beijing China

    Room TBC, Kuntai International Plaza, No.12, Chaowai Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing 地址:会议室待定,北京市朝阳区朝外大街乙12号1号楼昆泰国际大厦
    12 December 2019

    Spaces available

    The IFoA’s President-elect Tan Suee Chieh will visit Beijing. We will co-host CPD and Awards Presenting event with the Sunshine Insurance Group on Thursday 12 December 2019. The event is part of Mr Tan’s first presidential trip to China.

  • ARC Sessional Research Event: Drivers of Mortality - Risk Factors and Inequality

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    6 January 2020

    Spaces available

    The authors will focus on a large dataset obtained from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) and related sources. Data are available at the level of Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) – small geographical areas with, typically, 1000-2000 residents and include death counts, exposures and a significant number of socio-economic variables including the index of multiple deprivation (IMD).

  • SIAS Event: My Journey to Data Science, Big Data and AI

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    7 January 2020

    Spaces available

    Patrick Lee is an actuary who has made the transition to working in software architecture and artificial intelligence (AI). He holds Microsoft Professional qualifications in Data Science, Big Data and AI and is currently working towards a DevOps (the automation of software testing and deployment) qualification. He is a member of the IFoA Council and is also President of the Wessex Actuarial Society. He is also a member of the IFoA and the RSS's joint Data Science Focus Group and will talk on the ethical use of AI. 

  • Spaces available

    This presentation covers the detail for how the matching adjustment is calculated. A small simple example spreadsheet is provided and discussed in detail.

    For actuaries wanting to get more involved with the matching adjustment, this is the opportunity to get a detailed description of the mechanics involved. This includes cashflows derisking, PRA tests as well as hypothecation.

    The presentation is provided by James Sharpe who has worked on a number of matching adjustment calculations with several firms.

  • IFoA Volunteer Recognition Reception

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6DR, UK
    15 January 2020

    Spaces available

    As a thank you to all our Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) volunteers, you are invited to join us at Staple Inn Hall, for an evening of drinks, canapes and networking, in London.

    IFoA President, John Taylor, will be attending and will make a speech

    If you support the IFoA as a volunteer (member or non-member), or in any other role, and you are going to be in London on 15 January, please book your place and join us at this reception.

     

  • Sessional Meeting - Operational Risk Dependencies

    Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 9 Queen St Edinburgh EH2 1JQ
    20 January 2020

    Spaces available

    The Operational Risk Working Party aims to assist actuaries and others in the modelling and management of operational risk. One of the key challenges in modelling operational risk is the modelling of dependencies between operational risks, and between operational and non-operational risks such as market, credit and insurance risk. Their paper seeks to assist in this regard, and help develop good practice in setting assumptions and modelling operational risk dependencies. 

  • KSS event in Glasgow: Public Sector Pensions

    Hymans Robertson, Glasgow 20 Waterloo St, Glasgow
    30 January 2020

    Spaces available

    – the unappreciated key assumption, the resulting unsustainable promises, the unmanaged risk and the unrecognised debt? 

    Speaker: Allan Martin will present this talk on 30 January in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. If you wish to register for another location please return to the Events Calendar.

  • KSS event in Stirling: Public Sector Pensions

    M&G Prudential, Stirling Craigforth Campus, Stirling
    30 January 2020

    Spaces available

    – the unappreciated key assumption, the resulting unsustainable promises, the unmanaged risk and the unrecognised debt? 

    Speaker: Allan Martin will present this talk on 30 January in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. If you wish to register for another location please return to the Events Calendar.

  • KSS event in Edinburgh: Public Sector Pensions

    Hymans Robertson 1, Exchange Place, Semple St, Edinburgh
    30 January 2020

    Spaces available

    – the unappreciated key assumption, the resulting unsustainable promises, the unmanaged risk and the unrecognised debt? 

    Speaker: Allan Martin will present this talk on 30 January in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. If you wish to register for another location please return to the Events Calendar.

  • The Great Risk Transfer – Breakfast briefing and launch event

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn London WC1V 7QJ
    31 January 2020

    Spaces available

    Launch of the IFoA’s 2020 thought leadership campaign The Great Risk Transfer. The campaign will examine the trend of the transfer of risk from institutions to individuals, and how people can be better equipped to manage the financial risks they now face. At this breakfast event the IFoA will launch a call for evidence on this topic.

  • Professional Skills Training - London (11 February 2020)

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ         
    11 February 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Sessional: Impact of E-cigarettes Working Party

    Royal College of Physicians, 9 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JQ
    24 February 2020

    Spaces available

    This sessional meeting will be of direct interest to actuaries and others working in the in the Health and Care, Life or Pensions sectors or indeed actuaries with an interest in morbidity or mortality. Note: Registration is from 17.30 in time for the sessional to begin at 18.00.

  • Professional Skills Training - Edinburgh (25 February 2020)

    IFoA (Edinburgh), Level 2, Exchange Crescent 7 Conference Square Edinburgh EH3 8RA
    25 February 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Spring Lecture 2020, Edinburgh - Vicky Pryce

    Assembly Rooms, 54 George St, Edinburgh EH2 2LR
    25 March 2020

    Spaces available

    What next in Economic Policy?

    Please join us on 25 March 2020 for our annual Spring Lecture presented by Vicky Pryce in Edinburgh. 

  • IFoA Asia Conference 2020, Kuala Lumpur

    CCEC Nexus, 7, Jalan Kerinchi, Bangsar South, 59200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    24-25 June 2020
    Spaces available

    The sixth annual Asia Conference once again offers a prestigious line-up of home and international speakers discussing the insurance and financial industry’s innovation and change in Asia. This year's conference in Kuala Lumpur will be hosted by Tan Suee Chieh, IFoA’s first Asian President. He will also make his Presidential address at this conference and will expand on the important elements of IFoA’s new strategy. 

    Additionally, this landmark conference will showcase how the IFoA is reinventing itself to support its members to succeed and thrive in a digital age, within traditional businesses and beyond, as a global organisation. 

    Not to be missed by international industry players, opinion formers, academic and industry leaders, actuaries and non-actuaries.