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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

President's Comment: Making connections

The autumn is a time when political delegates criss-cross the country to gather at party conferences in cities and seaside towns. I, and other members of the Presidential team, also travel to our own conferences, including the Pensions Conference, the Pensions, Benefits and Social Security Section Colloquium, the East Asian Conference, 
the GIRO Conference and Exhibition, 
and the Society of Actuaries Annual Conference with the Life Conference and Exhibition and Momentum Conference coming up later in November.

Such conferences provide excellent forums for the presentation of new research, discussion of current actuarial topics and guidance on technical issues. The publicity given to such gatherings also gives us an opportunity to enhance our public profile.

As Ronnie Bowie has mentioned in previous President’s columns, members of Council, Management Board and the Profession’s executive team have put a lot of weight behind improving our image in the public affairs arena. Our approach was confirmed in our new strategy published 
in June. Here’s a reminder of what we have set out as our key objectives:

Public interest

• To speak out and facilitate an 
informed debate on relevant matters of public interest where the Profession’s expertise can add value
• To inform and influence existing public policy development, with contributions based on evidence and our expertise, working in a collaborative approach with government and other stakeholders
• To identify areas where further public policy development is needed through the use of evidence based analysis and research.

This remit excludes lobbying for specific solutions with regard to public policy change. I believe that this is an appropriate and practical stance given that we are representing the profession and its wide base rather than a commercial body or special interest group.


• To raise public awareness of the work of actuaries and the value we add to society
• To promote the integrity, independence and professional standards of actuaries
• To promote the benefits actuaries bring in existing areas of work and, where appropriate, protect the profession’s reputation when under challenge
• To extend the franchise by promoting the benefits of the actuarial discipline in new sectors
• To support the retention and recruitment of new talent to the profession.

Our developing programme will contain a number of key elements, including:

• An integrated plan to fully leverage relevant research, events, consultation responses and presidential meetings
• An active and effective engagement programme for key external stakeholders including regulators, government, politicians and advisers, special interest groups, think tanks and other 
professional bodies and the media
• A news flow of comment and 
thought leadership from the Profession that external audiences find accessible and of interest
• A co-ordinated programme of research and events that act as thought leadership platforms to generate external interest
• A ‘fit for purpose’ approach to consultation responses.

At an international level, we will aim to work with local associations and international bodies to promote and raise awareness of relevant international matters.

As part of this strategy we are making progress in setting up meetings and building relationships with selected politicians, such as ministers, shadow ministers, opinion formers, selected journalists and rising political stars with an interest in actuarial topics. If we work hard at this, we hope to become the ‘go-to’ source for expert comment and analysis. There are some encouraging early signs that we are becoming more effective in making connections and getting our voice heard ‘behind the scenes’.

The Scottish Board is also taking forward a customised approach to public affairs with specific Scottish priorities.

In addition to some early media successes mentioned in previous columns, many may have recently heard Ronnie Bowie on the BBC Radio 4 programme More or Less where he was the expert chosen to discuss the statistical likelihood of winning the lottery compared to dying in the time between buying the ticket and the draw happening. Unashamedly lighthearted, such media hits will nonetheless bring the public greater understanding of the work we do. They also create follow up media interest ­— in this case, a piece in The Sunday Post where 
Alan Watson provided an insight into the human interest side of actuarial mathematics.

Elliot Varnell has also provided actuarial expertise to help the BBC website develop a useful student finance calculator. On a final note, this is the first opportunity in my column to welcome Alan Phillips to the role of chairman of the Profession’s Management Board. Building on the strong foundations of his predecessor Sally Bridgeland, Alan will, I am sure, play his part alongside other senior volunteers and our executive team in successfully driving forward our strategy.