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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Letters to the editor (McBride / Devenney)

Merger debate: response to ‘trivial pursuits’
Robert Steel is appalled because the merger debate did not discuss matters of importance. The reason is simple; CAP had nothing to do with matters of importance, other than it purported to run the Profession’s affairs more efficiently than at present (The Actuary, August 2009). But that could be done without merging and, indeed, would have been done by now if Councils had fulfilled the task for which they were elected instead of wasting time on their merger agenda.

It had nothing to do with saving money, either; Stewart Ritchie told a Faculty meeting two years ago that subscriptions would not reduce. Indeed they might well increase. Promotional costs to date, in staff time and agency fees, must be well into six figures and to that would have had to be added the money to be spent after merger on promoting ‘CAP’. But, mercifully, CAP is dead.

CAP was never really about anything more than ‘spinning’ the Profession to the public, with marketing buzzwords such as ’ ‘vibrancy’, ‘world-class member services organisation’, ‘one profession, one voice’ and so on. The latter in particular was off target, as, perhaps unwittingly, Robert shows up when he writes, “The name of the professional body is unlikely to appear in any client’s list of reasons for seeking actuarial advice”.

Of course, our clients are as indifferent to which professional body their actuary belongs as to that to which their accountant, or any other professional adviser, belongs; it is being qualified to sign that matters. So CAP would have been of no fundamental interest to them. Anyway, where occasions calling for a public statement by both bodies do arise they are, and have been for some years, handled competently by the London-based ’head of communications’.

Where the CAP proponents seem to have been successful, sadly, is in spinning their merger to the profession. Two years of merciless propaganda, with opposing voices denied proper access to the membership until the last moment and then restricted to a single 750-word statement, seems to have worn the Faculty down at least . If you say something often enough and long enough...

As to Robert’s comments on the ‘presidential poll’, these are quite wrong; the poll asked which out of several choices members would prefer as the first president of the new body. He seems also not to have noticed that Ronnie Bowie was to have been that person.

So what now? The Institute has sensibly refused to commit a pointless suicide and so has happily saved the Faculty from a similar fate, but doubtless we are all going to be told to go back and vote again until we get it right.

However, I believe that the sheer silliness of asking the Institute to throw away its name and history and to re-charter and re-brand itself just to increase the membership by 15% had become apparent to Institute voters; and that they will accept no future arrangement between our two historic bodies which would rule out their continuing to sign as FIA.

[Footnote: Yesterday, The Observer referred to Ronnie Bowie as “president of the Institute of Actuaries”. Do they know something we don’t?”

Brendan McBride
3 August 2009

Balancing merger views
I wish to redress the balance in terms of the number of letters you have featured from Council members which to date have consistently supported the recently defeated merger. As the sole member of Joint Councils who felt that the terms of the merger were insufficiently thought through to recommend to members, I now seem to be alone in sharing and representing the views of the 1,713 members who actively rejected Joint Councils’ recommendation.

This is neither healthy nor sustainable if we are to move forward cohesively as a 21st century profession. Whatever direction we now take, we need to overcome our profession’s renowned arrogance and be humble enough to remember that Joint Councils must begin properly to represent the views of the 5,694 eligible members who did not support their Councils’ recommendation on 23 July 2009.

Gerry Devenney
30 July 2009