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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

SIAS are you tough enough?

Many readers of The Actuary will at least recognise the acronym SIAS. A flip through the first few pages of every issue will reveal the familiar logo our bold red and black badge.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about SIAS is the logo itself, made up of the three most important historical aspects of the actuarial profession: the red graph demonstrates the power of compound interest with its ever-increasing slope; the black represents the fragile shape of human mortality; and, most importantly, the white mimics the trajectory of a pint of ale as it moves from the bar to the lips.
The next most interesting thing is, as with any other organisation, the ‘long-term strategic plan’. However, in the interests of sparing the reader the excitement of having to read that in full, here is a brief summary.

Historical context
Of course the best plans start with a historical review. Our job was made very easy once we discovered the following extract from a certain very reliable history book.
In the bad old days (before personal computers and the M25) actuaries were considered an endangered species. The older ones (the ‘Masters’) were very protective of their territory and were very scary. They would only allow the young ones or the ‘Slime’, as they were mockingly referred to out of their cells on their own under very strict supervision, or very occasionally if they had behaved very well.
Once or twice a week many of the Slime would use a secret network of tunnels (which still exist today) to escape for the afternoon. The tunnels met in the courtyard of Staple Inn. At first they would simply sit and relax together. They would drink tea and eat Chelsea buns. Before long however, they decided to put their collective brainpower to good use. They built a machine that could produce the random words representing the answers to the actuarial examination questions. They would sneak back quietly to their Masters, all innocence.
And so SIAS was born it was called the Students’ Society in those days. A network of slime that would meet to counsel each other. To discuss issues of mutual professional interest. To help each other pass the ‘test of all tests’. But above all to eat Chelsea buns.
Before long, all the Masters were dead, and all the Slime became Masters. But this was a different generation of Masters. A new generation of Masters who remembered how difficult it was to be Slime. The ‘New Masters’ positively encouraged the Slime to interact with each other to benefit from SIAS. They also created a syllabus to help the Slime understand what they actually had to learn. They even created a set of instructions (‘core reading’) on how to pass the test. The New Masters would sit in their gleaming new offices and chuckle ‘How easy we have made it for the Slime these days!’

SIAS today
The day-to-day organisation is undertaken by a voluntary group of individuals forming a management committee. These individuals are mostly younger members, but there are a number of older members also demonstrating the modern mode of co-operation between the two previously rival factions.
Membership of SIAS is open to all members of the profession, though the emphasis is supporting the younger members through their formative years. Some more experienced actuaries find membership of SIAS helpful for trying to keep one step ahead of the students they employ, though they would never admit that.
The committee has documented its overall objectives and specific targets in a long-term plan, the main points of which are summarised here.
Armed with its new plan, the committee works consistently to provide the SIAS membership with the services they have come to expect. And at such good value for money see table 1.
We continue to focus our efforts to support younger members and for the purposes of planning events we use a loose definition of ‘students and qualified members with up to five years’ post-qualification experience’. But we appreciate that all actuaries are young at heart, and we welcome participation from all members of the profession.
By doing this we are encouraging members to partake in the sort of professional training that is not readily (or cheaply) available elsewhere. The emphasis is on providing an informal opportunity for younger members to contribute to the discussion on current professional issues.

Specific aims
We aim to hold at least ten meetings each year where papers are presented and the issues discussed in an open and informal fashion, covering a broad range of actuarial issues. We hope that many of these discussions will be led by younger members, and also encourage others to participate in the discussion with a prize for the best contribution by a younger member.
We also aim to hold at least ten social events each year ranging from pool and football competitions, quiz nights, and treasure hunts to a more formal annual dinner each autumn.
As far as The Actuary magazine is concerned, we aim to publish it 11 times each year, and it is available free of charge to all SIAS members. Articles are genuinely good quality, independent, and always relevant to the readership.

All that plus we have made it so very easy to join SIAS!
All new student members of the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries are automatically granted a year’s membership of SIAS free of charge. Thereafter, the annual fee for membership is a very modest £6 for students and £15 for qualified members.
So should you join? I think so. Take a look at the table above to see what other ways you could spend your money. I think you will agree there is no comparison!

Finding out more
You can find more information about SIAS on our website www.sias.org.uk, which contains information on the running of the organisation and full details of past and forthcoming events.
It also includes the full text of our long-term plan. You do not need to read it, but we have published it there in the spirit of openness. It includes specific targets on how the committee can be judged successful in its activities. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nick Taylor, the outgoing chairman of the committee, for encouraging us to think very hard about what it is we as an organisation are trying to achieve, and how to ensure we meet those aims.
If you are really keen, there is also the opportunity to join the committee and have a real say in how the organisation is run. We are always interested in hearing feedback from our members, and what better way is there to do that?

And finally
You should be aware of a mistake made by many. Please, please, please do not confuse us with the SAS. They are a bunch of namby-pamby no-hopers, whereas we are a team of highly trained, highly focused, and highly motivated individuals. I think I have that the right way around.

SIAS objectives
Keeping firm to its historical roots, the primary objective of SIAS is to provide opportunities, particularly for younger members of the profession, to:
– attend and participate in open discussions of professional interest;
– prepare papers for publication and discussion;
– have social contact with each other.

SIAS’s other objectives are:
– to represent the views of the younger members within the ‘corridors of power’ of the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries, particularly in relation to education and professional development;
– to publish, using an independent editorial team, The Actuary magazine on behalf of the profession;
– balance the requirement to focus on the needs of younger members against its secondary role as the London regional society of the profession.