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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

President’s comment: A brave new world

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ current mission is expressed as follows: ‘To support our members throughout their careers so they have the skills, attributes and knowledge appropriate for the evolving needs of the UK financial sector primarily as quantitative risk professionals.’ This mission statement dates from 2005 and was born out of a strategy debate following the Morris Review.

Those involved in the strategy debate at the time say that the primary driver behind the review and subsequently agreed mission statement was a need to restore confidence in the profession, a confidence that had been badly shaken (inside and outside the profession) by the events surrounding Equitable Life.

The strategic mission therefore emphasised support for our members in preference to emphasising our quasi-regulatory role or our role globally as an education provider.

Today the Profession enjoys much greater public confidence and self-confidence. Five years ago we were consistently criticised for an unworldliness in the commercial application of our work and for our business communication. Today we are perceived to have improved in these areas, but with more still to do. Our competence and integrity remain very highly regarded. While we must avoid arrogance and complacency, there is nothing wrong in being proud of our craft and our contribution to making the financial world a safer place.

We have a much better platform than five years ago. Confidence in, and the reputation of the profession, depends upon the actions of individual actuaries. Nonetheless, the professional body can set a context and a sense of direction. Feedback from external stakeholders suggests that the Profession has not been very successful in setting that context nor direction, nor at making our collective voice heard.

Council is therefore reviewing our strategy and how we articulate it. Given the progress we have made in the last five years, Council will consider whether a more ambitious and stretching mission would be appropriate. Indeed, the challenge may be to avoid overreaching ourselves. We would welcome your views; in particular, in my presidential address I stated that we would welcome your views on the following specific points.

The letters ‘UK’ in the mission may not properly reflect the global nature of our body — 40% of members outside the UK — nor of the global economy in which we work. So does our mission need to change to reflect that reality, recognising that in most territories there is a local association with whom we will wish to work? How should we articulate our global role?

We have ambitions to be perceived as highly skilled risk professionals. Should we restrict our initial focus to ‘quantitative risk professionals’ or aim more broadly? However far we aspire to broaden our reach, it is likely that we will need to be much more energetic in promoting the ‘Associate’ qualification as the ‘fully qualified actuary’. To what extent should we seek to position AIA/AFA as a foundation-level qualification around which we have an array of other subsequent qualifications, not just our own fellowship and CERA qualification but MBA, CFA and others that might be more relevant to the business area in which the actuary intends to work?

We have an absolute imperative to deliver what our members need in a way that reflects the wide range of those needs. At the moment we have three working objectives:

>> World-class member support
>> Building public confidence
>> Extending our reputation.

What changes, if any, need to be made to these?

Finally, and crucially, what is it that defines what the actuary brings to relevant business situations? In the October edition I put forward my own view that there are no individual features that distinguish us but rather it is the combination of features and an ability to understand and manage uncertainty that sets us apart. Do you agree? What particular features or combinations would you emphasise?

These are by no means the only questions that Council is wrestling with. Given the range and depth of the questions, and given that we want the answers to help form a strategy that draws us forward for the next decade, we will not rush the process. Your views therefore will be taken fully into account and I look forward to hearing from you.