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Actuaries defend themselves

The Society of Actuaries is moving to defend its members against criticism they have a conflict of interest.

Wednesday, April 5th 2006, 6:37AM

by Rob Hosking

Economist and industry provocateur Gareth Morgan recently wrote in his weekly column of a “massive hole” in the ability of New Zealand regulators to keep tabs on our actuaries.

The imminent arrival of KiwiSaver makes it more important this hole is filled he argues.

And he cites the recent Morris Review in the United Kingdom, which has recommended independent actuaries.

“Given the proliferation of British-trained actuaries in New Zealand and the inheritance of many of the British products and provider practices here, it is clear the Morris recommendations are relevant to KiwiSaver,” Morgan argues.

That is unfair on actuaries, says New Zealand Society of Actuaries president Peter Brown.

“Actuaries don’t just work for their bosses – they are part of a profession and they have to take those professional rules into account,” he says. “Yes, you will get those who break the rules, as you do in any profession, but you should not say that tars the whole profession.

“In New Zealand have we had any insurers go bust? No, we haven’t. And I don’t think actuaries have been credited for that.”

Brown concedes that some of Morgan’s argument – that the lack of prudential supervision means no-one can say for sure whether actuaries are sticking rigorously to the rules or not - may have some validity.

“You could say that. But no one has actually failed. It does seem to suggest there isn’t much of a problem.”

Actuaries – and the rest of the insurance and wider financial products and providers – are to be brought under the prudential supervision of the Reserve Bank once the current government review of financial products and providers is completed.

Rob Hosking is a Wellington-based freelance writer specialising in political, economic and IT related issues.

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