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Ethics and Bias in the House of Continuing Education Credits

ASEA Monthly

It’s rare an actuarial newsletter article requires a spoiler alert, but if you haven’t finished Season 1 of House of Dragons (HOD) consider yourself alerted. 

Alan, our ASEA Monthly Newsletter editor, said I could write about anything and while I could have talked about #CutieGate (a reference to Season 3 of Love is Blind) I opted for HOD. Don’t worry — by the end, you’ll learn about what you’ll need to meet your continuing education requirements.

But First: A House of Dragons Character Study

Viserys Targaryen is the king (who gets to sit on the very uncomfortable looking Iron Throne) and his first-born, Princess Rhaenyra, is his daughter by his first wife who died in labor with their second child. Viserys declared that Princess Rhaenyra would ascend to the Iron Throne when he dies. Cool dad points for breaking medieval gender roles. Bachelorhood as king is as short-lived as the fidget-spinner fad and Viserys soon marries Alicent Hightower, who had been Princess Rhaenyra’s BFF until the whole “you married my dad and now it’s weird” thing. And finally, we introduce Aegon II Targaryen, Alicent and King Viserys’s first child, a son.  

Viserys is in poor health and most of the first season of HOD is spent wondering “will he or won’t he (die).” For nearly 20 years, Viserys stays the course that Princess Rhaenyra would inherit the kingdom when he dies. Until . . . in his final moments of life, with only Alicent by his side, Viserys makes a rambling speech that Alicent interprets as “hey, I know I said my daughter should rule the kingdom, but in my waning moments of lucidity, I changed my mind! I want our son, Aegon II, to rule the kingdom.”   Soon after his death, mayhem ensues involving swords, dragons, and icy stares across castle rooms. 

The Intersection of HOD and Ethics and Bias

As credentialed actuaries we grapple with this question at one time or another: Is there an ethical choice in this situation? Is there an unbiased choice? What about ethical and unbiased? Ethical but biased? And so on with the permutations, but with 100% less dragon fire.

Who was the rightful heir to the throne – Princess Rhaenyra or Aegon II? A prudent actuary collects facts. They are both Viserys’ children. Either choice is possibly ethical. How would you decide: based on Viserys’ word of over 20 years that Princess Rhaenyra was heir or is it Aegon II based on his words uttered to one person on the eve of his death? Let’s then ask - which is the unbiased choice? Ask a Hightower and you’ll get a different answer than if you ask almost any other Targaryen.

In this case, any choice may result in war, bloodshed, or an unfortunate encounter with a dragon. As actuaries, hopefully, none of those outcomes would happen in the course of making difficult ethical choices. 

George RR Martin had a good insight into the nuances of ethics and bias and in the last five years, society pays a lot more attention to bias. Bias may be associated with polling questions or issues of racial and social justice. It extends to a broad array of subject matters, and actuarial science is not immune.

Actuarial Continuing Education in Ethics and Bias Topics

I’d feel modestly guilty if I continued writing about HOD, since we’re very likely to never know which choice for heir to the kingdom is both the ethical and unbiased choice. Retirement actuaries may never face as dire a fate as the characters in HOD but understanding ethics and the impact of bias is becoming more important. Important enough that our continuing education (CE) requirements now incorporate one or both of these topics. As practicing actuaries, we must make sure we’re as well informed as possible about ethics and bias in the context of our professional work.

I quickly realized that much like reading a George R.R. Martin novel, I was completely lost when it came to understanding the CE requirements surrounding ethics and bias. I happen to be a member of multiple actuarial organizations and each organization’s requirements differ in subtle ways. For example, as you’ll see in the summary table below, each organization references its CE “hours” in different terms – CPE for ASEA and JBEA, CE for AAA, and CPD for SOA. One thing is clear: we all have a responsibility to understand our CE requirements. To help myself and others, I summarized the requirements in a way that is ideally less confusing than the Targaryen family tree.

If, after digesting the CE requirements that you are subject to, you find yourself behind in earning those credits, most of the actuarial organizations are now incorporating these topics into conference and webcast sessions. For ASEA members, the JBEA CE requirements govern, and that cycle is ending on Dec. 31, 2022, so pick up your CE now to ensure smooth (dragon) sailing when you file for your renewal next spring. Just like the cliffhanger at the end of Season 1’s HOD, you don’t want to be shocked at the realization that you haven’t gotten all your CE credits.

Valerie Lopez, FSA, EA, MSEA, MAAA, is the Chief Actuary of Actuarial Systems Corporation (ASC).

A Condensed Summary of Continuing Education  is available here