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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

In the hot seat: Jimmy Joyce

Describe your current roles
In my role as quasi-government actuary (we don’t have the formal title in Ireland), I am attached to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I am involved in the normal run of prudential and market supervisory activities related to insurance companies, with an emphasis, obviously, on actuarial aspects. I am consulted by other government departments on actuarially related issues, eg the Department of Social Affairs on pension issues, and the Department of Health on health insurance issues. I am also chairman of trustees of a number of pension funds. And then, at present, there is my role as president of the Society of Actuaries in Ireland.
What has been the highlight of your year to date as president?
There have been quite a few, but three stand out. There was my own president’s address, which focused on financial regulation and on the regulation of the profession, and there was the visit of the Institute president, Paul Thornton, who gave us a review of current developments and future prospects for the profession. Both were memorable events but they also coincided with acceptance of groups of newly qualified members into the Society, which greatly enhanced the occasions. A debate organised by the Society on a proposed national pension fund also stands out the debate featured speakers from outside (including government departments, academia, the media, and interested parties in the pensions field) and within the profession.
The International Financial Services Centre in Dublin has been a major success story for Ireland in the 1990s. How do you see it developing, and how do you see your role in supervision evolving?
The IFSC has now reached a self-sustaining level of critical mass. Future developments will focus on the intensification and diversification of activities carried out by IFSC companies and on exploiting the increasing opportunities available as the single european market in financial services becomes firmly embedded in practice as well as in principle. From the supervisory viewpoint, we need to evolve our procedures so as to keep pace with the growth of the businesses we supervise the effective supervision of cross-border insurance is a particular challenge.
What are the principal challenges facing the insurance industry in Ireland over the next few years?
There are structural, business, and regulatory challenges. There is a lot of consolidation which will have a
big effect on how well the industry serves its customers and copes with its competitors in an increasingly integrated financial services environment. On the business side, our taxation system for life assurance changes from I-E to gross roll up/tax on exit from next year, so companies are having to completely redesign their products. And much more extensive regulatory disclosure requirements are likely to be introduced for both life and non-life insurers in the near future the challenge for the industry will be to turn compliance from a problem into an opportunity.
What phrase or saying do you most overuse?
This one stumped me, so I asked my wife. Apparently, I frequently irritate the family by asking in an accusatory tone: ‘Who left the lights on?’
What do you do most in your spare time?
During the summer I am much involved in cricket, during the winter in chess. Having been a very mediocre cricketer and chessplayer, I am having the common experience (to be fair, much more pleasure than frustration) of seeing my offspring greatly exceed me in both.
What is your favourite food and drink?
Apple tart and vintage port.
What famous person would you most like to go for a drink with?
I have actually had a drink with Boris Spassky, the former world chess champion, but a person I would be fascinated to meet is the man who beat him in that famous match in Reykjavik, Bobby Fischer. Given the title of the bestseller, In search of Bobby Fischer, I suspect I am hardly likely to.
What is the one lesson you have learned that you would pass on to young actuaries?
That, with a high degree of probability, effort and application translate into achievement, even if the pay-off may not be what you first expected.
You attended the recent education conference in Staple Inn. How would you like to see the education process/system evolve over the next five years?
I am quite impressed by the structure of the Australian system, with its ‘basic techniques’ and ‘control cycle’ cores and specialist modules. I think this is on the right lines and is capable of being adapted to the additional specialist areas that will be needed.
What will be the most significant issue facing the actuarial profession over the next decade?
This is a tough one but, in this era of questioning of the real content and merit of the professional ethos generally, I see the most significant issue facing us as being the embedding and reinforcing of that very ethos in a more sceptical environment, How can we do this? Mainly, by heeding criticism and, even more important, by being self critical and by being open to change where valid criticism dictates.