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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

President’s comment: Growing pains of a global profession

The actuarial profession is often described as being small by comparison with many others. Yet we have significant global coverage with actuaries in over 100 countries round the world. As nations enjoy increasing prosperity so their citizens look to manage their changing risks by protecting their health and wealth. Actuaries can and do play an important part in that process.

However, the role which actuaries play varies enormously according to the stage of development which their country is at.

This has been brought home to me over the last three months during which I have met our members in India, China, Hong Kong and Australia. In each case the visit coincided with a major conference of the home actuarial association but I took the opportunity to present diplomas to new qualifiers, to meet with our members to discuss professional matters and to obtain feedback on how we can serve them best.

In each case I met actuaries bound together with their international counterparts by many common values and behaviours:

>> A strong pride in their qualification

>> A keen awareness of how rapidly their world is changing and the importance of keeping skills up to date

>> Concerns about regulatory burdens and inconsistencies

>> An awareness of the importance of practical business skills alongside technical skills

>> A huge enthusiasm for the role they can play.

I also learned that another common bond is the overwhelming desire to correct punctuation and grammar before reviewing any text for quality. What is it about the actuarial mindset that finds the misuse of language so offensive?

There were also clear differences between the challenges in the developed markets of the UK and Australia and the less developed markets of India and China. In India and China the profession (and the insurance industry) has grown so rapidly that there are few senior role models for the young actuaries to emulate and to turn to for guidance when faced with difficult professional issues. In those countries actuaries are often also seen as technicians rather than business leaders.

When combined with the relative inexperience of many of the actuaries, this makes it difficult for them to exercise the influence which would be in the interests of all stakeholders.

Inevitably in India and China the numbers are staggering. Competition for places in actuarial science undergraduate and postgraduate courses is massive.

Those who succeed are both intellectually gifted and hugely committed. If the profession in these two countries can build its reputation and influence then our global profession will look very different in 20 years’ time.

But success is by no means certain. These fledgling actuarial associations are exposed to several risks. Part of the reason for my trips was to see at first hand what would be the most productive relationship for the UK profession to have with these other countries and bodies.

I will not try to set out our emerging international policy here (it is being consulted on at www.actuaries.org.uk/content/strategy-review). However, a few things are clear:

>> All other actuarial associations envy the breadth, depth and quality of the CPD we offer in the UK. Allowing them access to this in some way would make a big difference

>> The UK qualification is highly regarded. We may be able to make it more easily accessible to those who aspire to its high standards

>> The emerging countries would welcome some access to the wisdom of our experienced UK practitioners. We will try to find practical ways of delivering this

>> The more developed countries look with admiration to the amount of research done in the UK and welcome our efforts to make it as widely available as possible.

Finally, I was made keenly aware just how welcome my visits were. Our members outside the UK have a strong pride in their membership of the Institute and Faculty.

They have not, however, always felt that their professional body has reciprocated that pride. I was able to reassure them that Council is committed to serving all our members so that membership of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries adds value wherever our members are practicing, and in whatever field of work they find themselves. Council’s new strategy, due to be published at the beginning of June will set this out in clear and deliverable terms.

Ronnie Bowie is the president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries