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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

International: Reflections on ICA 2010

At my time of life I am a recipient of actuarial advice rather than a purveyor of it, but nevertheless I am very glad that I attended ICA 2010 for lots of reasons. Although they had the natural advantage of Cape Town’s glorious setting, our South African colleagues should be proud of the event they organised. The scientific programme was varied and interesting, with something to suit all backgrounds.

The social programme was well received (although my golf was pretty moderate) and the atmosphere surrounding the event exuded optimism for the future. The economic difficulties around the world and the variety of social challenges facing most, if not all, delegates in their home countries were invariably perceived as presenting opportunities for actuaries to make things better, not as insurmountable barriers to progress.

I have two abiding memories above all others. The first was the calibre of the speeches made by three non-actuaries. Helen Zille, the premier of the Western Cape, (and leader of the national opposition party) hosted a welcome reception for all delegates and accompanying persons in the stunning gardens of her official residence just below Table Mountain.

I was privileged to have a private conversation with her including, among many other things, her familiarity with the Canon Collins Trust, of which the late John Prevett FIA was chairman for a time. Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s minister of finance, gave the opening address and Dr Mamphela Ramphele, the first black woman to become vice-chancellor of a South African university (the University of Cape Town) – among many other distinguished appointments – gave the closing address.

All three spoke eloquently about the opportunities, and indeed the responsibilities, of actuaries to make their voices heard more loudly in the area of responsible financial risk management. We were encouraged to believe that our professional and ethical standards can and should enable us to play an important part in moderating the usually damaging effects of the pursuit of short-term financial gain.

My second abiding memory was of meeting several young actuaries and budding actuaries from developing countries whose attendance at the Congress was made possible by the award of bursaries from the International Actuarial Association’s bursaries fund (to which the UK Profession as well as some individuals made valuable donations). The determination of these people to make the most of the opportunity presented to them, and to take their learning back home and apply it in the development of their profession, was inspiring. Several were from elsewhere in Africa, and I can’t help thinking how pleased the late Peter Clark would have been to see them there.

Tom Ross is the chairman of the International Actuarial Association’s member support committee