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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Breaking the spell

“Hello, calling Planet Actuary. Are you receiving me?”
This is not a call for more letters but a quote from a review of Nigel Masters’ presidential address (see 3 July Evening Standard for the exact transcript).

First of all, I must congratulate Nigel on getting the actuarial profession into the press. I know from first-hand experience that dealing with the press is not easy. But, oh, what bad press it was. As well as accusing Nigel of being “out of touch”, the Evening Standard went on to accuse actuaries of “loving” pension schemes as “they can apply their financial alchemy to them”. Added to this was the comment that the carefully calibrated calculations we apply to our beloved pension scheme deficits are just “hocus pocus”.

While clearly terrible for the profession, I think that there are some real lessons to be learnt from this misinformed piece of journalism. Look at the words used: “financial alchemy” and “hocus pocus”. It is clear that the Evening Standard journalist has no idea what an actuary does, let alone why and how it is done. This ignorance has unfortunately been manifested in public criticism, at the profession’s expense.

If we are to improve the profession’s public image, we need to break this spell of ignorance and educate the general public and press as to who we really are. Once again we are faced with a glaring example of why actuaries must be able to communicate their skills to the wider public. Only then will people understand what an actuary can do for them, and promote us as the serious professionals we are.

Margaret de Valois