SOA leaders Andy Rallis and Lisa Kuklinski discussed 2019 and the future from a global perspective.MAY 2020
Leaders from the Society of Actuaries (SOA) gathered online in four cohorts to reflect on the past year and to share their perspectives on the future of the organization and the actuarial profession. The virtual roundtable conversations are published in four installments this spring.
In this first part of their conversation, SOA leaders discussed 2019 and the future from a global perspective. The SOA is global in scope, with over one-third of its membership residing outside the United States. Outside of North America, the SOA has more than 5,500 members and more than 12,000 candidates, and that number continues to grow. Not only are actuaries often called on to work across borders and be familiar with different regulators, but they are also increasingly mobile. Thus, the SOA continues to build stronger relationships with actuaries, regulators, educators and candidates around the world.
Q: Why is adapting education for international members important?
Lisa Kuklinski: Education is a key part of the value proposition that the SOA brings to the world. So as part of our broader strategy looking to the future, we’re exploring how best to provide education in the global market. We’re adapting both basic education for actuaries pursuing credentials and continuing education for actuaries who are in the field as part of the SOA’s Long-Term Growth Strategy. We continue to identify ways to provide professional development and education relevant to local markets. We’re able to do this, in large part, through our great volunteers.
Q: How do we support our membership and candidates in international markets?
Kuklinski: We have three regional committees; China, Greater Asia and Latin America, and they consist of members who either live in or have strong ties to those regions. I’ve personally served on the Latin American Committee for the past three years. These three groups are really making inroads for the SOA in building relationships with members, candidates/students, universities, employers and regulators. They look for opportunities to provide professional development and then organize those events. They work with universities, and they spearhead education to the region. Also, I want to mention the SOA’s Ambassador program, which represents our boots on the ground, building relationships with the local markets and promoting the SOA.
Q: Serving on the Latin American Committee, that’s quite an opportunity. What has been your experience working on that committee, and what have you personally enjoyed about it? What value do you feel it has brought in the last year?
Kuklinski: This committee was essentially a startup three years ago, and since then we’ve built so many relationships. We’ve provided almost 100 hours of professional development. We’ve reached thousands of people—actuaries, non-actuaries, insurance professionals. Let’s talk about Brazil, for example. We have a good relationship with the local actuarial society in Brazil (Instituto Brasileiro de Atuária), and we look for ways to work together. In 2018, we had our first-ever SOA-sponsored seminar in Latin America, and more than 70 people attended. We were able to bring together experts from the United States and Latin America countries there. In 2019, we had a three-day predictive analytics seminar to Brazil, and more than 130 people attended that one. We’ve also had similar events in Chile, Argentina and Colombia.
Q: How about in China and other parts of Asia, where we’ve had a presence even longer? What types of programs are we hosting there?
Kuklinski: The SOA has had ties with China for more than 30 years, and in Asia, we’ve been hosting and continue to host annual actuarial symposia: one focused on China and offered in Chinese, and a second event focused on the Asia Pacific area. Last year, we had multiple Predictive Analytic Seminars in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul, as well as the first offering for the SOA’s Predictive Analytics Certificate program, in Bangkok. And the volunteers and staff in the Asia region have been working to communicate with members and candidates. They use Facebook, and WeChat and Weibo, social media that are particularly used in China.
Q: Andy, your travels last year involved visiting Asia as well, didn’t they?
Rallis: Last year I traveled to Thailand to attend a Fellowship Admissions Course and to Japan to attend the International Association of Actuaries (IAA) Conference as well as celebrate the 120th anniversary of the actuarial profession in Japan with the Institute of Actuaries of Japan. That was a significant historical moment for us to be a part of that historic event for our Japanese colleagues in the actuarial profession.
Kuklinski: I also had the opportunity to travel for the SOA last year to the Philippines and to Vietnam to meet with local actuarial societies. We visited universities and are finding new ways to work together, so it was a very productive visit.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about the SOA’s strategy in China and Asia?
Rallis: In 2019, we added both the Philippines and Vietnam as part of our Greater Asia strategy.
Kuklinski: Yes, during my trip we realized that the actuaries in the Philippines were already taking the SOA exams as a large part of their local designation, so it seemed like a natural fit.
Q: Okay, let’s shift gears and talk about some of the other actuarial organizations in other countries. You’ve recently completed a trip that included stops in India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bangladesh. Andy, any observations from your most recent travels?
Rallis: We received invaluable assistance from our ambassadors in planning and executing our trips to these countries. We were able to visit with several universities, regulators, and some key employers in each country – India, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
Q: In regard to some of the presentations and conversations you were able to have in Saudi Arabia, India and UAE, how did you address technology, data, analytics and the future of the actuarial profession?
Rallis: We used these opportunities, especially the university visits, to showcase what is important to the SOA at this moment. In particular, we discussed new technologies and what those might mean for training actuaries, especially in areas like predictive analytics and machine learning.
Q: Any personal observations or reactions from your travels?
Rallis: In Saudi Arabia we have only 12 members practicing, but there are nearly 150 candidates for our exams enrolled in university systems. The candidates skew toward about two-thirds female, and I think that’s great to see their interest of actuarial science.
Bangladesh is a different story. We met with regulators who are hungry to develop an actuarial profession in their country. There are 70 insurance companies in Bangladesh but only two qualified actuaries. One works for the regulator and one is in industry; they’ve recognized that insurance is a key part of modern society, and it’s very hard for that industry to be effective without actuaries.
Q: Lisa, what about your reactions?
Kuklinski: Visiting the universities is one of my favorite parts of my outreach job as a volunteer. I get to see how excited students are about studying actuarial science and the different opportunities it can give them. They look to actuarial science to solve issues in their country, and it’s very inspiring.
Q: Andy, you mentioned earlier that you attended the International Association of Actuaries (IAA) meeting in Japan. Why is it important for the SOA to be involved with the IAA?
Rallis: The IAA is an association of associations. Seventy-three full members form a network of key country-specific organizations around the world. Our participation enables us to form relationships with these other organizations, explore areas of mutual interest, and support the profession globally by helping develop common positions on important actuarial issues. The IAA is currently undergoing a renewal strategy that will help it to better govern itself and establish priorities across the entire organization. We expect this will allow it to be more effective.
Q: Since both of you are so involved in these areas and have experienced so much on your travels, what would you say to a member who wanted to know why the SOA needs to be involved with and expand to other countries?
Rallis: We recognize that our existing curriculum has a heavy slant toward American content, but the world is becoming much more globalized. Many companies have subsidiaries in the United States or are subsidiaries of companies that are based in the United States, which means many practicing actuaries need to be familiar with regulations in other parts of the world. We also have new accounting regulations under IFRS and new capital standards under Solvency II. Local variations of these are becoming very important and differentiate between the adoption in different countries. So our syllabus needs to be relevant for constituents around the world because we definitely have a growing membership outside of North America and our traditional areas of practice.
Kuklinski: I really believe in the education system and the research the SOA performs. I think we’re the premier actuarial organization in the world, and we can have a big impact by focusing on the global perspective.