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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Fitter happier/Tomorrow’s actuary

On Monday 1 December 2003, 250 Radiohead fans checked out of the Glasgow Moat House hotel, to be replaced by 250 actuaries and actuarial students, themselves hoping to become fitter, happier, and more productive.Jeremy Goford and Tom Ross (respectively presidents of the Institute of Actuaries and Faculty of Actuaries) opened the second Younger Members’ Convention, themed around ‘Tomorrow’s Successful Actuary’, following words of wisdom from the chairman of the organising committee, Paul Fulcher.The conference followed the same successful formula as the inaugural conference of 2002. Plenary sessions of general interest were accompanied by technical talks for both specialists and non-specialists, with softer skills sessions aimed at broadening skill-sets.

Everything in its right place, including the hedgehogThe specialist talks opened a forum for debate and illustration of what is current in the various industry sectors. Presentations varied from a debate on pension scheme investment, through stochastic modelling to mortality and longevity risk. The boundaries of our wider fields were then extended to the dramatic arts by a general insurance role-play. The non-specialist talks offered insight into other fields of interest, and gave the opportunity to discuss the experiences of other practitioners.In looking to the future, Sally Bridgeland presented a talk invoking the hedgehog concept. By identifying what we are passionate about, and combining what we are best at, we can fuel our actuarial engines to reach wider and greener fields. Hunting personal hedgehogs takes imagination and an appetite for risk. ‘The future belongs to those who dare.’ It would be illuminating to hear at future conventions about the experiences of those who had found their hedgehog niche and ran with it.

ElectioneeringSuch ideas provide an interesting backdrop to the other talks. For example, actuaries have become increasingly involved in banking. Huw Williams illustrated this progress with a detailed account of his work using swaps in matching pension fund liabilities. At first glance, this pensions/investment-bound topic looked narrow, but the principles elicited point at a wider array of opportunities available for the open-minded actuary.Moving further afield from the conventional actuarial pursuits, Stephen Yeo talked of his move from pensions to politics, and the corresponding exchange of affluence for influence. The chance to change the world we live in is another glistening window, a wider use of our FFA/FIA. Stephen highlighted the reality of working in politics, dealing with the various parties and the press, which sparked a lively debate regarding the need for an actuary in politics to maintain his or her professional standards.

Prove yourselfThe success of the convention in meeting its objectives can perhaps be measured by the number of people who will seek to go again, or advise others to do so. The overriding feedback from the delegates was positive – that something very worthwhile was going on, a bridge to more senior levels of the profession.A competitive element will be introduced to this year’s convention, which will be held in early December. For those seeking such a challenge, perhaps the best talk to revisit will be that on ‘essential negotiation skills’.

Chairman’s noteWe should like to extend our thanks to Paul Fulcher (chairman) and Nick Kenny (pensions) as outgoing members of the organising committee. Joining the committee are Gus Williams and Daire O’Neill. To help us sharpen delegates’ minds this year we welcome Mohammad Khan, Grace Chan, Elaine Delaney, Sophia Singleton, and Scott Lothian to the organising committee.Antony Buxton is an actuary in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ human resource services and Louis Manson is a senior consultant at GAAPS International

With the 2003 younger members convention (YMC) falling just three days after the September actuarial exam results, I had hoped that it would be my first convention as a qualified actuary. As it turned out, I arrived in Glasgow with another near miss under my belt – but perhaps I would pick up some useful knowledge for my next attempt.

Tomorrow’s successful actuary‘Tomorrow’s successful actuary’ was the theme of the Institute of Actuaries president Jeremy Goford’s introductory talk. He stressed the need for actuaries to make the meeting of clients’ needs their first priority, not simply coming up with sophisticated technical solutions – or, as he put it, addressing the why, what, and who questions rather than the how question.Faculty of Actuaries president Tom Ross followed this with a look at the future of the actuarial profession. The possible future threats highlighted included competition, lack of public trust, and over-specialisation. To try to counterbalance these he suggested increased future roles for education and actuarial standards.

Down to businessThe convention proper got under way with a series of technical sessions aimed at practitioners in each of the main fields. I stayed in the main hall for a very well-attended debate on whether pension schemes should invest all their money in bonds. Jon Palin put forward some convincing reasoning for the pro-bond camp but the vote went the other way.As well as the practitioner sessions, there were non-practitioner sessions intended to give delegates a taster from fields other than their own. I stuck with the bonds theme, this time from an investment point of view.

Wider fields and softer skillsLuckily the final two sessions on day one were non-technical. Out of curiosity I attended the session on working as an actuary in academia. This was no doubt a useful overview for anyone considering this option, even if it reinforced my personal view that four years at university is enough for me. My final session of the day was on negotiating skills, during which Paul Holloway gave an accomplished presentation on the key topics in this area. I am looking forward to testing out this new knowledge at the time of my next salary review!Food, wine, and a touch of jazzTo make sure that we wouldn’t talk only to work colleagues at dinner, the organisers had cleverly arranged the seating plan so that nobody knew anyone else at their table – they also thoughtfully provided a supply of wine to keep the conversation flowing. After dinner, most delegates predictably retired to the bar, while a jazz band provided a more relaxed atmosphere next door.

The political actuaryDay two began with a talk from Stephen Yeo, pensions policy adviser to the Conservative Party. In an entertaining talk, Mr Yeo admitted that the party’s press releases often contained unchecked figures or caveats he knew would be ignored by anyone reading them. The highlight came when a delegate questioned whether attacking the government was the best use of a qualified actuary’s skills; luckily for Mr Yeo, Geraldine Kaye was on hand to defend him.The final session of the convention was on the importance of image, from two different perspectives – that of an image consultant concentrating on personal appearance, and that of a recruitment consultant considering the image of the profession as a whole.

So was it good then?I feel obliged to congratulate the organisers of the convention, which went smoothly from start to finish. In general the sessions were well targeted at the profession’s younger members, and were well balanced between technical and non-technical topics. I hope to be back in 2004 – preferably without two more ‘near misses’ to my credit!Mark Pattison works in employee benefits consulting at Hymans Robertson

Spring cleaning

April and the student actuary’s mind turns towards cleaning the oven, sorting out the kitchen cupboards, and finally getting round to sorting that huge pile of bank statements into chronological order. Anything, in fact, which doesn’t involve studying. Not that we’re trying to avoid study you realise, oh no! It’s just how can we be expected to study with all those little annoyances around? It’s impossible to study in anything but an immaculate room.This month’s student pages come courtesy of a couple of the delegates from the Younger Member’s Convention. Bad luck to those who were a bit late for the Radiohead concert – but it sounds as though you might have learnt a bit more than sitting listening to loud music. A very useful two days were spent by all, if the authors are anything to go by.To those of you who, like me, are still struggling with the exams, may I wish you the very best of luck for the forthcoming exams (I should probably send some good wishes to those who are taking the exams but not struggling with them – but they are probably less in need of luck). If it helps, keep thinking about that pay rise – clean ovens are very overrated.