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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Letters: Colm Fitzgerald

One thing really stood out when I marked some CA1 exams recently (from the Dublin City University Graduate Certificate in Actuarial Science) – a couple of the students (all of whom work as trainee actuaries) seem to think that one of the main reasons to be professional is to win more business.

This is not something that they got from my lecture notes, from the ActEd notes or from the CA1 Core Reading. So, where did they get the idea from? Other students seem to have let the idea that they are now ‘actuarial trainees’ go to their heads — they’re not like the other non-actuarial employees in their respective companies — what they think is more important. Not that “the views of others may differ from his/her own and that the other views may be valid” (CA1 Core Reading).

Some words of Alexander Pope came to mind, which I’ve amended slightly below (taken from his Essay on Criticism).

So modern consultants, taught the art
By actuaries’ bills to play the actuary’s part
Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
Nor time nor moths e’er spoil’d so much as they;
Some dryly plain, without invention’s aid,
Write dull receipts how investments may be made.
These leave the sense, their learning to display,
And those explain the meaning quite away…
Pride, where wit fails, steps in their defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense!
To please their clients’ ear, Not mend their minds…
In pride, in reas’ning pride their error lies.

If the students could only keep their feet on the ground a bit more, it will surely help them get better marks, speed their way through the examination process and, hopefully, make them better actuaries.

Colm Fitzgerald
23 February 2008