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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

In the hot seat: Making a difference: Caroline Instance

Caroline Instance, the profession’s new chief executive
When did you first become aware of actuaries?
I had the dubious pleasure of reaching 25 without knowing that such creatures existed. Then I joined United Friendly Insurance as a personnel officer, where the appointed actuary was Michael Gilbert. I got on well with him. He was a real character avuncular, and always wore a bow tie. I was involved with recruiting actuaries as the actuarial team increased. We had consultancy support from Tillinghast and one of those actuaries, John Instance, joined us; he subsequently became my husband. I had administrative responsibilities for the pension scheme and got to know the scheme actuary, Colin Singer, well. Obviously, I have increased my knowledge of pensions actuaries further with my job at Opra. It was Wendy Beaver who sold me the idea of using GAD as Opra’s actuarial resource.

Given this level of awareness, what attracted you to your new job?
The advert was thrust under my nose by my husband with a ‘this sounds just like you’ comment. I hadn’t seen it, although I skim-read The Actuary most months. The skills described in the advert did match mine. I hadn’t started actively looking to move on from Opra, but I had come to a conclusion that after six years in a job it was probably time for a change. What appealed to me, other than the fact that I could do the job, was that I knew something about the profession and could relate to its aspirations. I liked the idea of working for another small organisation I like being the biggest fish in a small pond. And I felt that there was some overlap with what I’d done before, but some challenge as well, getting involved in new things.

Opra is an organisation whose role is quite tightly prescribed by legislation. Do you think you will experience much of a change on moving to a professional body?
Obviously I do think that there will be a change that is part of the challenge although there will be other constraints. It will be a question of what the Faculty and Institute jointly want to do, with constraints being led by the membership.

Do you think that the Faculty and the Institute should work harder to be seen as a learned profession rather than as a trade association?
I probably would tip the balance towards the learned profession rather than ‘just a lobby group’. It would be interesting to find out what actuaries want to see when their profession is quoted. The profession has a basis in knowledge and expertise, and I think that it would want to be known and respected for that, not just scoring points against the government.

Professions have an element of self-regulation, which they are under pressure to justify at the moment. Do you think, from your regulatory background, that the actuarial profession will be under the spotlight soon?
I don’t think actuaries need to defend their power or ability to self-regulate because the government is expecting actuaries to fulfil a regulatory role in many aspects of work in life and pensions. If they are trusted with a regulatory role in aspects of the world in which they work, they should be trusted to regulate themselves. Disciplinary procedures need to be kept under review to ensure that they are consistent, comply with natural justice and human rights issues, and are seen to work effectively. So as long as such reviews continue, I think that the profession will be able to defend its self-regulation role. But whether it would always want it is another question. Why should the profession bear the cost burden of discipline arising from actuaries fulfilling regulatory roles? Maybe that should be left to government.

At Opra you have enjoyed a high public profile, frequently making pronouncements on its behalf. Traditionally, within the actuarial profession that has been done more by the presidents and other actuaries. Do you see yourself as still having a role very much in the public eye?
It was put to me at my interview that a communication role on behalf of the Faculty and Institute was considered part of the job, and with my background it doesn’t frighten me in any way. I think a balance is needed to ensure the right profile. In many situations it will still be most appropriate for the presidents or other actuaries to comment for the profession. But on occasions a rapid response might be best delivered by staff, provided they were confident that they knew their stuff and were being consistent with the profession’s policy.

How do you see the UK profession working with those in other countries to become part of a truly global profession?
I see the presidents as being the lead people in the international context. The industries in which we work are getting more global and therefore there must be value in making sure that there is a consistent and coherent profession across the globe.

Sharing a home with an actuary must give you some view of the profession. Do you think that members of the profession are aware of all that their profession is doing on their behalf?
I am sure that they don’t, but I would not want to say that my knowledge of one actuary in depth spreads to the rest of the actuarial profession! He doesn’t participate in Institute affairs, although he does go to various sessional meetings and conferences. I imagine that the vast majority of actuaries are like that, but they read their magazine, probably superficially on occasion, and look at the website. I would be interested in getting more from the grassroots about what they want from the profession, because there is always a danger that there is a skewed view, perhaps rightly, from talking only to people who put in effort and participate in their profession’s activities.

In five years’ time how will you judge whether you have been successful in your new job?
First of all I want to find out what are the critical areas that the membership want to see as a success, so it will be based on questions I will ask of the presidents and other key members. At a personal level, I will feel that I have been successful if I have enjoyed it and have made a difference in various ways, but exactly which ways I don’t want to judge until I have seen the nature of the beast. It isn’t the sort of situation that I experienced in Opra, where I came to a completely blank sheet, where one obviously could make an impact. I hope that communications with the membership would improve, that more members were actually engaged with their profession, and that it has a higher and better profile with opinion formers.