On the proper use of a professional designation

This article originally appeared in the CIA (e)Bulletin.

By Michel Simard, CIA Executive Director

In any given profession, there are strict rules governing the proper use of its professional designation.

It is no different for the actuarial profession. Rule 10 of the CIA Rules of Professional Conduct states that “A member shall make use of membership titles and designations of a recognized actuarial organization [defined as an organization that has been granted full membership in the International Actuarial Association or a standard-setting, counselling, or discipline body to which authority has been delegated by such an organization (e.g., SOA, CAS, IFoA)] only in a manner that conforms to the practices authorized by that organization.”

In this context, “title” means any title conferred by a recognized actuarial organization related to a specific position within that organization. For example, terms such as “president,” “committee chair,” “committee member,” or “member” of such organization are titles.

A “designation” is a specific reference to membership status within such an organization. In the case of the Canadian profession, this means Associate (ACIA) or Fellow (FCIA) of the CIA. Abroad, this would mean ASA, EA, FSA, ACAS, FCAS, FIA, AIA, CERA, MAAA, etc.

All these designations have one thing in common: they confirm that the individuals holding them are meeting the professional requirements established by their profession. A professional designation is not an acquired right such as a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree. A professional designation needs to be kept current by regularly renewing your membership (i.e., timely paying dues) and fulfilling continuing professional development requirements. A professional designation is your “permit to practice.” Failure to maintain its standing means it can no longer be used.

Let’s assume for a moment that an FCIA also holds a designation from another recognized actuarial organization and decides to resign from this other organization. Upon resignation, the FCIA would be required to omit any mention of the abandoned designation in representing their qualifications, whether on their business marketing products, social media accounts, or curriculum vitae. It is also important to note that any given mention that they once obtained such a professional designation should specify the date it ceased to be effective.

In a Canadian actuarial context, the proper use of a professional designation is crucial for the protection of the public. The use of the term “actuary,” on its own, is not considered a reserved title under the law and could be used by anyone without consequence. It is therefore important for our actuarial professionals in Canada to be assertive and transparent in using their current designation as a Fellow or Associate of the CIA.

FCIAs and ACIAs should include their designation in their business activities to highlight and reinforce the authority and identity of the profession in Canada and the exclusivity of their membership in our Canadian Institute.

Michel Simard is the Executive Director at the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

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