Articles - The actuarial small print

“Your statutory rights are unaffected”, “subject to approval”, “terms and conditions apply.” There is plenty of small print in our lives; some of it we cheerfully ignore, and some of it we gloss over with no idea of whether it’s important. Do you really know what protection is offered by ATOL? Why is a service charge not the same as a tip? Who ever retains the packaging for future reference? In our actuarial work there is one phrase you will see again and again:

 By Julie Baillie, FFA, Actuary Barnett Waddingham

 “This advice complies with Technical Actuarial Standard 100: Principles for Technical Actuarial Work (TAS 100) issued by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).” This isn’t just small print for us, as actuaries, though. This is a key part of a framework of professional standards that help us to demonstrate our commitment to quality and so that our clients can be sure they are getting the best standard of work and advice possible.

 The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) oversees the regulation of the actuarial profession in the UK and sets various Technical Actuarial Standards (TAS) that apply to our work. The TAS framework supports the FRC’s “reliability objective” which, essentially, is to ensure that a user can rely on information’s relevance, transparency of assumptions, completeness and comprehensibility when it is prepared by an actuary.

 TAS 100 in particular applies to all our actuarial work, whether it is accounting disclosures for employers or funding advice for the Fund. It’s not an afterthought for us either; it is built into our advice from the beginning, a set of guiding principles to make sure that the reports we prepare are consistently reliable.

 The individual principles of the standard cover judgement, data, assumptions, models, communications and documentation; all key fundamental areas that we consider in our actuarial work. Some of the principles are strictly determined: models must be fit for purpose and assumptions must be documented, for example. Others try to mitigate the imperfect nature of the information we have available: if data is insufficient it must be adjusted or supplemented, and communications shall include explanations of any significant limitations in our models.

 As a non-actuary should you read the relevant TAS? I would say yes, why not? They are brief and they’re not written in particularly technical language. But whether you choose to read them or not, these standards and the principles enshrined in them mean that you can always rely on our actuarial advice and you don’t have to worry about unwelcome surprises in the small print. 

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