[Skip to content]

Sign up for our daily newsletter
The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Fashioning a successful future

In the northern hemisphere, we are well into late autumn. With the chill in the air we have reached for the protection of our winter wardrobe. Non-actuaries may jest that the difference between the summer and winter wardrobes of many male actuaries is hard to discern. I would accept that actuaries are not, by temperament, likely to be followers of haute couture.

Fashionable concepts, which are based mostly on show rather than substance and fit only a tiny minority of the population, are unlikely to find favour with most of our members. Actuaries are more likely to be interested in garments with high levels of functionality. Will it withstand a Scottish winter, or will it survive the punishment of London’s commuter trains while retaining its shape and integrity? For us, ‘shower-proof’ is not enough. We want our protection to remain effective even in relatively extreme conditions.

Indeed, we are constantly looking for ways to improve that functionality. We want to find our own versions of high-tech, weather-resistant materials that improve certain aspects of functionality without detracting from others.

We also have very high standards of quality. Our exams ensure that only the best craftsmen can use the ‘actuarial’ designation, our CPD scheme requires our craftsmen to stay up-to-date and our disciplinary scheme is there to give the public confidence that, on a rare occasion when the appropriate standards are not adhered to, then action will be taken. Our Actuaries’ Code also ensures that it is not just the technical quality of our garments which is exceptional but so too are our ethics.

Our badge of quality is much admired. The number of people who wish to join our craft continues to grow (particularly overseas) and in certain core markets we enjoy an enviable dominance. A number of our members have successfully branched out into new areas, not typically those associated with our craft, demonstrating that our skills and values have a wider relevance.

However, we face a challenge. On the European financial services catwalks this autumn, the overriding theme has been ‘risk management’. Whether it be from established sources such as Solvency II or from new sources like Sir David Walker, the theme is the same. The financial services world must adopt new safety standards which will, in turn, increase demand for hard-wearing safety clothing.

We have two challenges: first, we need to capture our share of the safety clothing market. Second, we need to position ourselves as experts in overall safety management. We know that we can design and make the safety clothing. The techniques we have used in our traditional markets are capable of adaptation and wider application, with many successful examples to support these claims. The forthcoming Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary qualification (CERA), which will be available to be awarded in Spring 2010, will help to establish our credentials in the safety wear market just as they have been in our traditional markets. We are working to maximise the benefit to our members of the launch of this qualification.

Establishing ourselves as leaders in broader safety management will be hard and will take longer. However we can, and will, publicise this and celebrate role models such as Philip Scott FIA, the retiring finance director of Aviva who will shortly take up a non-executive director position with Royal Bank of Scotland and will chair its newly formed Risk Committee. We congratulate Philip on his appointment and believe it to be an excellent model for the future.

What appears on the catwalks eventually appears on the high street. The current fashion for risk management will persist and, as a profession, we must ensure that we are at the heart of this exciting new development.