I have spent the past few weeks reflecting on my first six months at the IFoA, in part prompted by the presidential cycle, and in part as I have now spent more time leading the IFoA from home than I have in the office!
The six months since I started have gone by in the blink of an eye, but I am grateful that I got to spent time with colleagues, Council and volunteers before we started working remotely.
January was a good time to join, with a clear focus on getting a new strategy and supporting corporate plan agreed. It also enabled me to finalise year-end reviews and try to ‘set the tone from the top’ more generally, which is always easier to do face to face.
It feels like not much has changed and also that a lot has changed. In March, Council agreed a clear and ambitious strategy, and my focus was to ensure that the organisation was there to deliver it. This remains unchanged. In fact, in some areas, such as our move to online exams, we have accelerated what was envisaged anyway.
Our focus in delivering a member-centric and output-focused culture has also been hastened, given the essential need (driven by remote working) to operate at speed and empower people to deliver results. Barriers have come down as we no longer have physical teams or locations, and have had to work cross-functionally in ways we haven’t in the past.
But things have changed, too. The outlook for many of our members may be more challenging or uncertain; ways of working and what is valued may change, at least in the midterm; and our membership across the globe
feels both closer and further away.
The actuarial community’s response to COVID-19 and our own Action Task Force are good reminders that we can respond in a quick and united way when needed, as well as build a whole new community of interest very rapidly.
Volunteers have told me how liberating and rewarding it is to operate at pace and make a meaningful impact, and I hope they can take a lot of confidence from what has been done and how it was done. I have also heard great stories about members showing leadership and initiative in their own workplaces. We will need more of this, and I take a great deal of encouragement from it.
It is said that plans do not often survive reality. We were ready to press the launch button on the IFoA’s new 2020-2024 strategy just as COVID-19 reached a critical point, but decided it wasn’t the right time to make such a major announcement, as other things needed attention first. We are now able to launch this strategy and, as we re-examined it against the ‘reality check’ of the pandemic, it actually remained substantially unchanged. A few of the notes are going to be played in different orders, but that is more about operational prioritisation.
The final thing that has changed is the urgency of what we need to do. With your support, I need to help make sure the IFoA is ahead of the curve as a modern, progressive but reflective organisation that helps our members be the best they can. We have made a start, and from September 2020 our entire examination offering will be run online, with work being done to ensure our curriculum remains relevant and future-focused. Our events are also evolving to reflect a more digital world. We are considering how we can offer the greatest value for our members and their employers, and how and where our colleagues can do their best work to support them.
At a time of huge disruption, we have developed a clear path. We look forward to supporting you as we continue on this journey.
Stephen Mannis the chief executiveof the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries