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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

President’s address: Nigel Masters - Forward thinking

By the time you read this column, we will know the outcome of the merger vote. I very much hope that members will have seized the opportunity that merger offers but, if they have not, then the leadership of the Profession will have to seek other ways of dealing with the risks at the heart of joint working. This will be difficult and potentially uncomfortable but necessary.

As the UK’s new coalition government takes up the reins, I am minded to contrast a coalition with our own aspiration to create a permanent single body. The new government, for all the hopeful words now, is made up of people with fundamentally different views of the world. This must ultimately surface with inevitable frictions and rifts. In contrast, the actuarial profession is made up of people with a fundamentally similar view of the world. A profession will always embrace a range of judgments, but we all accept the same professional values and principles. It is on such values that a permanent unified body would be based.

Jane Curtis will become president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries from 2011 should the merger have been voted through and, in the event that we remain two organisations, she will succeed me later this year as Institute president. Whichever role Jane is asked to fulfil, I am most pleased that her ability to listen and her determination to seek consensual solutions means she is ideal to provide clear and balanced leadership over the coming year.

Recurring themes
It is not for a president with only a few months to run to lay out an agenda for his successors but there are some themes from my presidential address that may bear reconsidering as the new leadership of the Profession gathers its thoughts.

Communication with members has to be an important focus. To this end, our new website goes live in July with a faster search facility, improved look and feel, and more interactive features including forums, news feeds and community micro-sites. The new website, which retains our existing web address, www.actuaries.org.uk will be accessible also by smartphone, a great benefit to working actuaries in transit.

Engaging more proactively with the wider public affairs agenda is another perennial theme. Many members have told me personally that they believe we must promote our ideas and skills more forcefully. Through orchestrated research and insightful contributions to public debate, we will promote the work of actuaries and the vital role played by our profession, forging links with the new UK government and helping to shape policy.

The third recurring theme is maintaining a healthy jobs market for actuaries. With no new defined benefit schemes being created and life insurers consolidating, there is likely to be fewer roles in these core sectors. General insurance, I am pleased to say, faces none of these challenges. So a priority must be to promote the growth area of general insurance and also health and care, and risk management. Further initiatives around CERA are planned to achieve this.

A final theme is the importance of developing the Profession’s role outside the UK. 40% of members are based outside the UK and serving their needs is an important focus. This month, Staple Inn hosts what has been billed as Davos for Actuaries, with input from senior actuaries of eight national actuarial associations, including the US, Australia, Germany, South Africa, Spain and Ireland. We will debate regional co-operation within the profession, relations with international employers, CERA, international standards, research and sharing member services.

Regardless of the outcome of the merger, the challenge of communications, with members and our wider stakeholders, and the impact of this on the opportunities for actuaries both in the UK and in the rest of the world, recur for each new leadership. I am confident the incoming team has the skills and tenacity to face the challenge and move the profession forward.

As I step down from my role as president, which I’ve found both challenging and inspiring in equal measure, I leave feeling pleased with what has been achieved by the members of the profession over the last two years and also confident that actuaries have the talents and training needed to seize the opportunities of the future.