This has been quite a year so far – like most years for the IFoA, I am finding out.
I joined the IFoA two-and-a-half years ago to help implement the bold new strategy to ‘reposition the profession’ that Council had been working on, with key priorities focusing on skillsets, supporting new areas and showcasing actuaries being ahead of the curve. This also required transforming the IFoA to support these outcomes, as well as ensuring it has the culture, systems and processes to be more member-centric. In his inaugural presidential address, Matt Saker talked about how he believes the actuarial profession can grow, influence and lead in a rapidly changing world, building on the progress so far. This has to be a whole-team effort and I am really looking forward to working with Matt as president in progressing this, as well as with our new Council members Oliver Bettis, Kudzai Chigiji, Dan Georgescu, Jennifer Hartley, Yan Liu, Matthew Pearlman, Hilary Salt and Cynthia Yuan – congratulations to you all.
A change of presidency is an opportunity to reflect on what we have been doing over the past few months. The impact of the pandemic accelerated our ambition to become a digital-first organisation. Many of you will have attended our recent first-ever hybrid IFoA Conference, which brought you together as one actuarial community. Whether you joined in-person or online, networking is one of the key things our members value. This hybrid conference was a ‘test and learn’ for us and we will review the feedback to shape next year’s conference.
In May we brought together all IFoA employees at a two-day in-person event, with the theme of ‘one IFoA’. This was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic begun that everyone in the organisation had come together face- to-face. It was a great opportunity to spend time discussing the improvements we have made, and taking the confidence from this to work through what else we can do to make your IFoA experience even better.
We talked about the importance of taking ownership of issues in the wider context of serving members more effectively. Much of our effort here has been digital, too. Our website refresh is designed to be more member-friendly, with a second phase coming later this year. There will be more to follow, as nearly all of our IT systems are changing. Our free-to-access online events have hopefully made it easier for you to take advantage of learning opportunities.
The IFoA Learning Change Programme continues to be the IFoA’s biggest-ever investment in our learning offer, ranging from new pathways to Fellowship (following on from the introduction of the Banking pathway) to consideration of how best to introduce some optionality into the pre-Associateship curriculum. It also includes the purchase of a new online delivery platform for our exams, which will hopefully provide an even better experience for our students while maintaining the high standards we all expect.
We have focused on how we can better support you to make an impact on society. Our Thought Leadership series was well received and a recent Ipsos MORI survey shows our public affairs agenda is landing well with policymakers. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face and actuaries need to be aware of how it impacts the advice they give. The IFoA Sustainability and Climate Risk course, launched in March this year, is giving members the opportunity to become experts in this field.
Embracing diversity of thought and perspective is essential to the role of an actuary, and at the beginning of the year the IFoA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy was launched to support you with this. There is lots of activity underway to support the strategy. I have been really encouraged by the positive conversations we have had with several actuarial employers exploring how we can best support each other in achieving our mutual aims.
One of the key tests is when these changes are felt by our members. That may take time, but I hope it is clear that our members are at the heart of what we do.
Finally, but importantly, we have continued to run the IFoA efficiently and effectively. We are in good financial shape and are able to hold member fees flat for yet another year.
Stephen Mann is the chief executive of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries