Cooperation, Connections and Communication

Craig W. Reynolds

Photography: Hyon Smith

If you follow the news of the actuarial profession in North America, you certainly know that relationships among some of the actuarial organizations have been under some strain in the past few years. My desire to work on improving these organizational relationships was a significant factor in my decision to run for the office of president of the Society of Actuaries (SOA). During my SOA Listening Tour visits, both locally and around the world, the most frequent question I am asked is, “How is it going with the other organizations?” I am pleased to report that the situation is much improved.

Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) President Steve Lowe recently wrote a column for the Actuarial Review1 about the relationships among the organizations. I encourage you to read it. He shared a view largely consistent with my own. Both of our organizations are committed to being the best we can be and are dedicated to delivering the best service that we can provide to members. We also are both working hard to support the profession globally. We can and do compete, but in a way that drives us to be our best.

The SOA’s strategic plan calls for us to “set the global standard for a complete actuarial curriculum.” An SOA education provides a solid baseline grounded in all areas of actuarial practice, including general insurance (property and casualty), life, health, risk, pension, retirement, group and investments. We want to broaden actuaries’ perspectives, provide the tools to address problems and also to help them develop a practice specialty. The SOA is committed to all of our specialty tracks, including general insurance, as we continue to support our members and the actuarial profession globally. The world is big enough for many actuarial organizations. The choice offered by multiple organizations should make the world better for actuarial students, credentialed actuaries and actuarial employers.

Meanwhile, we continue to work on improving relations with the American Academy of Actuaries (the Academy) through regular communication and joint projects. The Academy and the SOA developed the Actuaries Longevity Illustrator, an online calculator for the public. We also work closely together on life, health and pension topics within the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ various working groups. Several SOA staff actuaries participate in the Academy’s practice councils, providing important links between our work and theirs. These are essential connections we are making together.

On a multiple-organization level, we are working with the Academy, the CAS and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) to jointly produce the Actuaries Climate Index and the Actuaries Climate Risk Index, which look at the impact of severe weather. These projects are prime examples of how much we can accomplish when the organizations work together. Other areas in which the four organizations come together include work with various committees and task forces of the International Association of Actuaries (IAA) and the North American Actuarial Council (NAAC). And, of course, we collaborate to support the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (ABCD), the Actuarial Standards Board (ASB) and the Joint Discipline Council (JDC).

A key to strengthening and maintaining these relationships is improved communication. I speak at least monthly with Tom Wildsmith and Steve Lowe, my counterparts at the Academy and CAS, respectively. Jerry Brown, SOA president-elect, also has regular conversations with Bob Beuerlein and Nancy Braithwaite, his counterparts. We regularly meet in person at meetings of the NAAC and the IAA. Furthermore, I shared a draft of this very article with my counterparts at the CAS and the Academy before it went to press. I wanted to ensure the material was accurate and that each organization’s president was informed of this communication in advance, and had an opportunity to comment. Nonetheless, this article should be viewed as my personal opinion, and I do not mean to imply that they have endorsed or agreed with anything I say herein.

Some of our members remain puzzled by the subject of competition, believing that we should all be working together for the benefit of all members and the profession, and that somehow this is inconsistent with the idea of competition. In fact, we ARE all working for the benefit of the profession. However, each organization must work at its own pace, style and approach to achieve its own strategy. I assure you that our organization’s strategy focuses on growth of the profession in representing you, our membership.

At times, we may have overlapping projects with other actuarial organizations and different ideas on how to approach related topics. Realistically, such organizational overlap is inevitable when multiple organizations exist to represent the same profession. Elsewhere in the world, there tends to be one professional organization per country, or region, to represent actuaries. However, we are not there yet. Until then, I will seek opportunities where we all can work together to strengthen relationships. I encourage all of the organizations to help focus on this unified approach in representing the profession.

Please share your ideas with me, as I appreciate hearing your perspective. I encourage you to also share your ideas with Steve Lowe and Tom Wildsmith. While the three of us do not agree on everything, I am personally committed to strengthening our great profession—and I know they are, too. If we are to succeed, we need your help. Thank you.

Craig W. Reynolds, FSA, MAAA, is president of the Society of Actuaries. Follow him on Twitter @CraigWReynolds and LinkedIn.