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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

The importance of democracy

In the close to 20 years since Iqualified, the profession has beenthrough some ups and downs thatsome of us would prefer not to beassociated with.

During that period I can think ofone occasion that caused me fargreater embarrassment at being anactuary than any other. I was upsetat the actions of other actuariesand I regret my inaction at thetime. As I recall it, I went to StapleInn to attend an Institute meeting.I was surprised that the meetingwas preceded by the election of anumber of honorary fellows. I wasmore surprised by the nature ofthe discussion that took placeregarding one of the candidates.

I didn’t speak at the meetingeven though I had an opinion onthe suitability of the candidate:simply joining that debate oneither side seemed to be the wrongthing to do. As I travelled home,thinking through what had happened,I finally worked out what Iought to have said. For the recordI will offer it to you now:

Democracy is extremely important.In a membership organisationit is essential that themembers have a right to decide onissues of great importance. Thatright provides an essential checkon the actions of those that runthe organisation on the members’behalf. It also carries a significantresponsibility.

First, in exercising that responsibilityit must not provide anexcuse for the airing of personalanimosity between members. Theprofession is diminished if itsmembers reduce the discussion oflegitimate differences in professionalopinion to the level of personalcriticism. Unfortunately, thetone of the debate that has takenplace has caused those issueswhich are genuinely related topolicy regarding membership tobe wrapped up in the personalissues.

Second, in choosing to voteagainst a proposal, the membersare effectively expressing their lackof confidence in the officials thatmade the recommendation andthe approach they have taken informulating their proposals. Ibelieve that the genuine issuesbeing raised here have been consideredby the Institute Counciland I’m minded to trust theirjudgement.

I now understand that a verysimilar issue is to be put to themembership once again. I trustthat the membership will showgreater maturity and professionalismon this occasion.