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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Volunteers wanted!

What does it mean to be a debtor to your profession? I’d always assumed it meant that as I earned my salary by virtue of being an actuary, I should contribute to the work of my profession. We are a small profession, but still have the requirements of a much larger one – regulation, education, and putting our point of view take as much time for us as for the accountants with their hundreds of thousands of members. On top of that we have to devote time to looking to the future, working out where we want to go, and how we’re going to get there. This is all complicated by the multitude of practice areas for actuaries, which reduces the numbers available to volunteer in each one. And, as usual, once you volunteer for one thing, you get roped into more. As a profession I think we’re pretty good at putting something back, but the 80:20 rule seems to apply – 80% of the work is done by 20% of the members. (This has an upside and a downside – the upside is that the 20% can make decisions more quickly, effectively having a mandate from the other 80%. The downside is that the 80% can feel unconsulted and disagree with those decisions.) Personally, I enjoy the professional work I do. I finally understand how the profession works and I now know what FIMC stands for. I’ve met lets of people inside and outside the profession, and gained lots of experience. The profession could, I believe, be more proactive in recruiting people. Vacancies could be advertised on the website or in The Actuary. And we could collect more information about members’ interests so that people chairing committees have a pool of volunteers to draw on. There are plenty of jobs – so get stuck in. Having said that, the one thing worse than no volunteers is a volunteer who promises and doesn’t deliver. Some people seem to regard professional work as low priority. Of course your employer isn’t paying, but other people are relying on it. And it can often be people outside the profession, so it gives a bad impression if things don’t happen. So once you volunteer, what can you expect? My experience is as a member of the General Insurance Board and chair of the General Insurance Public Relations Committee. I’m also a member of the profession’s PR committee. This is a commitment to about 16 meetings a year, each lasting up to four hours, which are rarely on the same day. Each meeting requires about one-and-a-half hours of preparation, plus time spent on allocated work. To some extent, the commitment you make is up to you. All the committees are well supported by the profession’s staff, who arrange all the meetings and send out papers. And many committees need people for ad hoc jobs rather than full membership. I don’t think the system is perfect, however. I believe it would be beneficial for the profession to step back and look long and hard at what we’re trying to achieve; the best way forward should then be obvious. In the short term, we could impose time limits on meetings, and on individual items being discussed within meetings; we could have subgroups of the boards focusing on particular areas, with high level issues only being discussed at the boards; more communication by email would reduce the number of meetings needed. My personal bugbear is the amount of paper I’m sent each week – perhaps this could all be posted on the website so people can select the ones important to them, and just read those. So come on everyone – volunteer, and we can build the profession we want.