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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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ASSA annual convention 12–13 October 2006

The UK actuarial profession was represented at the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s annual convention on 12– 3 October by Stewart Ritchie and Nick Dumbreck, who participated in a panel session on public interest issues and presented certificates to new fellows. The convention was also attended by Tom Ross and Michael Pomery, who had been invited to speak on governance issues for the actuarial profession.

The Faculty’s 150th anniversary was a major theme of the convention – with the logo on the strapline and the dinner themed for it. Stewart Ritchie was presented with a gift for the Faculty and a cheque for 5,000 rand for CHAS. In addition, a group climbed Table Mountain which Stewart declared as an honorary Munro for the day.

Approximately 600 people attended, 400 fellows and 200 senior students. There was a good level of participation, aided by question cards which the audience could fill in while the speaker was speaking, and which were delivered immediately to the chairman.Adrian Baskir gave his presidential address, entitled ‘Look at your actions today through tomorrow’s eyes’, an indication of the ethical and disciplinary problems which have blown up in South Africa during the past year. A couple of quotes from his address, which are very pertinent to the UK, are:

‘Our professional reputation continued to come under fire from a number of quarters and Council spent many hours deliberating on these issues. Whilst this criticism of the profession is very much part of “today”, many of the events for which we are collectively being criticised took place in the past. We are being judged today by yesterday’s actions. Any profession and any society continues to evolve. What is accepted unquestioningly today may be totally unacceptable in a few years’ time.’

‘Quite simply, today’s employed are failing to make adequate financial provision for their retirement. Whilst actuaries cannot take the blame for the move from defined benefit to defined contribution pensions, perhaps not enough has been said by actuaries about the consequences of this for retirees. Not only are employees now faced with an uncertainty in terms of investment risk, but often they do not know what their target is in terms of replacement ratio, let alone progress towards that target.… If we look through “tomorrow’s eyes”, are we saying and doing enough as a profession to demonstrate thought leadership on these issues now… or will the reputation of the actuarial profession be slated by our current silence? I leave this question to be answered by others.’

Among the papers at the convention were no less than three on the subject of modelling pandemics and the potential impact on the South African life insurance industry. The convention ended on a high note, with an excellent talk on professional ethics by a guest speaker from the medical profession.

On the day before the convention a group of about 30 ASSA actuaries plus Michael Pomery and his wife Mary took part in a voluntary project for Habitat for Humanity, a charity which provides low-cost housing, in a township outside Cape Town.