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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Conference preview: Life conference

The theme of this year's Life conference, ‘We can work it out', sums up conference chair Jason Hurley's mood nicely. The managers of insurance companies have a whole raft of challenges — changes to regulatory frameworks (not just Solvency II), changes to financial reporting, the need to better manage their business, the fragile state of the economy and the ever-changing legal environment.

Mr Hurley (pictured) wants actuaries to be honest and realistic about the challenges for the industry and the profession. He believes that to fix these problems, actuaries need to understand their role, and need to work together in the bigger, wider community. He is very keen to foster a community spirit, he encourages people to participate, to speak their mind, to think and to have fun.

Mr Hurley suggests that often people focus on "today's problem" and maybe lose sight of the fact that the industry's fundamental job is to serve our customers, provide good quality value for money products, that meet
customer needs. He questions whether we have embraced technological changes to anywhere near the extent that we should.

Putting this together into a coherent programme means that the conference will cover a number of areas in the main plenary sessions, the key messages being: "Where are we, where are we going and what are we doing about it?"

Plenary sessions
■ David Nish, CEO of Standard Life, will share his views of the industry, its challenges and prospects. David is relatively new to the industry, having spent many years working in the electricity industry. It will be interesting to hear the views of a relative newcomer

■ Colin Simpson of Goldman Sachs will give an honest and realistic view of how analysts and investors see the life insurance industry

■ Ross Walker and Andrew Roberts of RBS will offer an economists' insight into UK and global markets.

Customer focus
Mr Hurley firmly believes that actuaries must not forget the primary, if not sole, purpose — to deliver products and services that meet customers' needs.

■ Sue Harrison will present customer research. By listening to the public and giving them what they want, there are many opportunities. But how often does the industry ask: What do the public think of us? What do they value? What are they prepared to pay for?

■ Simon Clayden, AXA Insurance, will share his experience from general insurance, building and delivering iPhone apps to speed up the application process, improve application and claim services, manage operational risk and reduce costs.

As well as these plenary sessions, there will be over 80 workshops sessions, including a number of ‘hot topics', many with an international flavour. Mr Hurley believes that much can be learnt from abroad, provided solutions are tailored to the local market. In this respect he is very pleased to welcome the involvement of the International Actuarial Association at this year's conference.

Keynote speaker
So that gives us a lot of background information, the environmental challenges and where the industry is aiming for. So how does that come together as a plan? In that respect, the keynote speaker on Sunday night will give personal valuable insight.

Among many things, Rt Hon Sir Richard Needham is a non-executive director of Dyson, and a former Trade and Northern Ireland minister. Drawing upon his experience in both government and commerce, he will share his views under the banner of ‘Winning Through'.

Sir Richard will deliver a number of clear messages, including innovation, dealing with suppliers, managing your margin, managing people, testing your strategy and working out what customers actually want.

An entertaining and thought-provoking speaker, he has plenty of messages that we can all learn from. Mr Hurley's final request is for actuaries to make the trip to Liverpool, to make your contribution to helping the profession but, more importantly, to helping your customers.

Jason Hurley is chair of the Life conference and exhibition committee