President's comment: Brand leadership
Philip Scott believes that building the right brand will present great opportunities
1 JULY 2012 | PHILIP SCOTT
“Good business flows from a good brand. It allows you to experiment with new ventures with less risk and more potential for return”
I am delighted to write this, my first article, to you as president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. First, I must thank those who have helped me prepare for this role and who have set out an excellent ‘flight plan’ to follow for our future strategy. To continue the metaphor, I am taking over the controls from a skilled pilot, Jane Curtis, who has ensured that the initial stages of the strategy for the Profession have been carried out with extraordinary efficiency and success.
Thanks also go to the members of the council: the former immediate-past president, Ronnie Bowie; the heads of the committees, and volunteers. It is easy to forget the impact of these people and the part they play in making things happen – without them the Profession could not function and I would certainly find my job more difficult.
Much has changed since I started on my actuarial career many years ago. The internet had yet to be invented, letters were handwritten and typed up by formidable secretaries, complicated calculations were simplified by clever formulae and, if you worked hard, you aspired to the highest position in the company.
Actuaries were recognised as hard-working, intellectually superior, trustworthy and responsible. These traits were valued. There was no need to be charismatic, good at communications or personable. Our semi‑mystical actuarial skills were sufficient for respect. We, in possibly a too complacent manner, thought this would never change.
As a result of our history, I fear we can be perceived as having a rather muddled identity. We need to convince others that, beyond intelligence, we can also inspire and show leadership and commercial skills.
Intellect alone will not be the key determinant in deciding whether our views are listened to or our services used. More sophisticated software can make many of our technical skills redundant. What we need to demonstrate is our understanding of the issues, and to communicate to others how best to use and develop tools for use in real-life commercial situations. This calls for an all-round skill set so that we can argue our point of view and persuade others to take our advice.
I have spent most of my working life in large, well-respected, successful companies. The element that keeps such organisations at the top of their game is a solid brand identity. A good brand adds value. A good brand means you are easily recognised, trusted and used frequently. Good business flows from a good brand. It allows you to experiment with new ventures with less risk and more potential for return. A good brand means that demand for services is high and a premium price achievable.
One of my aims for this year is to work on the Profession’s brand identity. I believe that it can be made more visible and recognisable. I also want to protect the high quality of our image and ensure the Profession is not weakened or diluted. We should differentiate ourselves from the competition and develop a strategy for building a strong brand within the industries where we work, with government and the wider public. I truly believe that this will help us in all areas – from the recruitment of the best new students, through an increased demand for our services and greater respect for actuaries who are part of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.
We can achieve this, in part, by improving the way we promote ourselves and communicate; both within the profession and to the wider world. We should listen to what consumers want and expect from our skills. We should look for opportunities to find growth in new markets. We do not want to become a niche profession, known solely for regulatory roles. We need to link ourselves with a high-quality, reliable end product for all who use our services.
I think the task of developing our Profession’s brand into one that stands for quality and trust in financial matters is a bold goal, but it is one that is certainly achievable and is the best legacy that I could wish to leave.
In my next few columns, I want to explore how best these themes can be adopted by each of the Profession’s main work groups. I will be looking at what each group is doing on a day-to-day basis, their research objectives and their aims for the future. If you wish to join in the debate, please feel free to contact me, or to join one of the discussion forums based on the Profession’s website. All in all, it looks to be a fantastic year ahead.