Photograph: Kerry Woo
As my term as Society of Actuaries (SOA) president winds down, I would like to take the opportunity to look back and evaluate how things have gone. In my inaugural speech I identified five key goals, each of which are addressed here:
Maintain the Value of Our Credential
Our desire to maintain or enhance the value of the credential underlies every decision the SOA makes. We understand your credential is one of your most valuable assets.
One key tactic we focused on was the enhancement of the Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) curriculum to increase our focus on short-term insurance coverages and substantially expand our predictive analytics content. This action was motivated by our desire to maintain the relevance of our credential in a changing world.
Sometimes we had to think about credential protection in unusual contexts. One example was our decision to sign a public letter calling on North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2 (HB2). I heard from many of you who voiced strong feelings on both sides of this topic. The Board felt it was important to sign this letter because HB2 rolled back discrimination protections for many of our members, allowing employers to fire or refuse to hire our members on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Protecting our members’ right to work is one of our most important responsibilities. Without that, what value would our credential have?
Strengthen Relationships with Other Organizations
During my campaign and on many Listening Tour visits as president, I heard your messages loud and clear: Our members want the actuarial organizations to work together better.
We have made substantial progress on this issue. I have regular and cordial communications with my counterparts at the American Academy of Actuaries (the Academy), the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA), the Conference of Consulting Actuaries (CCA) and the American College of Pension Actuaries (ACOPA).
We consult each other on issues that impact the profession, including the new International Association of Actuaries (IAA) educational syllabus, exam changes, diversity in the profession and public relations. We do not always agree on every aspect of these issues, but we evaluate and consider the impact on each organization in every decision we make, with a goal of making the whole profession stronger. We are working together more effectively than we have in many years.
Expand the Breadth of Work Performed by Actuaries
We know from our supply and demand study that we have an oversupply of actuarial candidates at the entry level. Fundamentally, we have two ways of addressing this matter. Some may suggest limiting the supply of actuarial candidates. I disagree. We do not want to discourage quality candidates we want and need. Increasing demand is the better option. This helps all of us by encouraging the best and brightest to join the ranks of our profession.
A shining example of this effort is our summer intern program. The SOA helped place interns at a number of companies that had not previously hired actuaries. Examples include NASA and Microsoft. Some of these companies are so pleased with the experience of working with actuaries that they plan to hire more actuaries. While entering new job territory was a little intimidating for some of the candidates, they soon realized that blazing new career paths for actuaries helps to expand what employers, candidates and actuaries consider “actuarial.”
Encourage and Support Diversity Within Our Profession
This is an area of focus that makes me particularly proud of our organization. Two notable successes include our publication of a new statement on diversity and kicking off a comprehensive research study on barriers to entry for the profession. The latter project is a joint effort with the CAS, the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) and the Actuarial Foundation—a great example of collaborating with other U.S. actuarial organizations.
Our effort to get our members to voluntarily and confidentially supply racial, ethnic and gender diversity data of themselves to their online profiles was less successful. We need better participation to allow us to effectively monitor our progress in dealing with diversity issues. Please join me in the SOA’s effort to better understand member demographics. Read my letter from the February/March 2016 issue of The Actuary, which includes detailed instructions on how to contribute your data confidentially.
Of course, we remain unequivocally committed to maintaining our high standards and our meritocracy. No one I know would advocate for changing that. In discussions related to this topic, I heard from many people who suggested that being color-blind was good enough. I disagree. As an example, according to U.S. government census data, U.S. actuaries are around 2 percent black and 2 percent Latino. This is far below the representation of these groups in the U.S. population, and approximately one-third of their representation among recent STEM graduates. We need to find more ways to make the actuarial profession more welcoming to underrepresented groups. Good intentions and professions of color-blindness are not working.
Our decision to sign the North Carolina letter was an example of walking the talk on these issues—sending a message to our members that every qualified actuary is welcome as a member and a candidate, irrespective of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Support Our Members in International Markets and Enhance the Global Reputation of Our Organization
The SOA is an international organization, with 15 percent of our members and 22 percent of our candidates located outside of the United States and Canada. Volunteers and staff work continuously to enhance the reputation of actuaries around the world and, more importantly, to serve our members and candidates in those markets. Two notable examples of our efforts were:
- The creation and execution of an insurance executive exchange program to host Chinese insurance executives in the United States. The opportunity allowed SOA and China Association of Actuaries (CAA) members to share and learn more about our similarities, our differences and how we all can advance the actuarial profession. The CAA will host a mirror exchange in China in 2017.
- The opening of a new office in Beijing and the hiring of a lead China representative was focused on providing services to members, candidates, employers and universities in our third-largest market.
I have great confidence in the SOA and its leaders. The SOA staff is dedicated, talented and passionate. The Board is forward-looking, thoughtful and committed. I see great things ahead for our profession and our organization. This has been one of the great experiences of my life, and I am grateful for the opportunity.