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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Reasons to be cheerful

The here and now of the economic crisis is making significant demands on our time. Many of us are working longer hours dealing with new challenges and adapting to a changed financial landscape. However, the crisis has also highlighted the importance of looking beyond the immediate and preparing for the future. I have had several opportunities to gain some insights into the future of the profession, and the view beyond the doom and gloom that we are currently experiencing is cause for optimism.

Earlier this year, I visited universities in India and China, and City University and Imperial College in the UK. On these visits, I was impressed by the talented people that the Profession is attracting, and their enthusiasm and self-assurance. Tony Hewitt from Imperial College Business School summed it up when he wrote to me following the visit, saying he never ceased to be impressed by the talent of actuarial students and the new actuaries he taught.

These students are among a growing number joining our Profession; in March we welcomed our 20 000th member, Lesley- Ann Lappin. This milestone is evidence of a growing interest in actuarial careers and Lesley-Ann and her contemporaries have much to look forward to and a valuable contribution to make.

Role model
These students were provided with a positive role model with the announcement of actuary Shahbaz Hamid as one of Britain’s most powerful Muslim women — See the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Muslim Women Power List 2009. Ms Hamid has been influential in her role with Aon and I would like to congratulate her on her achievements and in raising the profile of actuaries.

Another reason for us to feel positive came from my recent visit to an actuarial department in India to see first-hand the wide reach of the Profession. The work being carried out by capable and enthusiastic actuaries in the HSBC headquarters in Kolkata has an impact as far afield as Ireland and Malta. I am not the only one who has taken the time to think about the future of our Profession. In a recent survey of members’ views, one of the main messages was the importance of a forward-looking focus. Many of you believe that actuaries should be innovative and become more involved with public debate. Many also indicated your support for a merger between the Faculty and the Institute.

By the time you read this, the Joint Councils will have reached a decision on whether or not to proceed with a formal vote. I look forward to playing my part in the evolution of our professional body.

Facing the financial tsunami
Although there is much to look forward to, it would be remiss of me not to mention the challenges that many of us are facing due to the turmoil in the financial markets. In a presentation at the Chinese University in Hong Kong in March, I spoke about the actuary’s perspective on what I termed the ‘financial tsunami’. It is an evocative description, but the devastation that the events have caused to and within the financial sector has had a significant impact.

Some of the primary concerns for actuaries regard valuation in a dislocated market and the focus on capital strength and liquidity. In the medium term, we need to focus on challenging actuarial models and identifying areas for further research such as countercyclical approaches to solvency and treating savers fairly in a recessionary economy.

One of the roles of the Profession is to help members meet the fresh challenges in the industry and adapt to the changes that have occurred. We can do this by:
>> Sponsoring relevant, challenging and practical research
>> Strengthening our professional standards with a new code of conduct and wider peer review
>> Fostering flexibility within the membership through knowledge-sharing and the continuous professional development programme
>> Developing strong networking opportunities
>> Promoting wider skills and improving support to members.

An essential part of our approach to rebuilding in the short term and thriving in the long term will be in facing the future with confidence. I feel that our global profession has a lot to be hopeful about in coming years, including the input of some of the bright and talented students that I have met in the UK and abroad.