Our society faces many challenges. The economic woes of the last few years have not only brought hardship to many but have highlighted the divisions in our society and the ever-increasing gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.
"I hold every man a debtor to his profession". These words of Francis Bacon are very familiar to actuaries having been a motto of our profession for 150 years. They have also been an inspiration for the many volunteers who give so much to our profession. But perhaps today we should take a broader interpretation of these words. In the original text from which this quote is taken, Francis Bacon talks about a duty for those who have earned a profit from their profession to give something back. Well as actuaries we have all been fortunate to have earned a comfortable profit from the society in which we live. So maybe there is a duty for all of us to give something back.
Of course many actuaries already give a huge amount back - not only financially, but also in terms of time and expertise. As Master of the Worshipful Company of Actuaries I see and am humbled every day by the immense amount of good work which actuaries across the country do to help others. Each year we present the Phiatus Award to the actuary (or student) who has made an outstanding contribution to charitable work. The last two winners of the Phiatus Award, Ella Spencer (for her fabulous work with Gambia Up Country) and Ronnie Sloan (for many years of magnificent charity fundraising), are just two great examples of the charitable work of actuaries.
Philanthropy is rich and life enhancing for very many reasons. We have the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of others and that can (and maybe should) be reason alone for charitable giving. But philanthropy also changes public perceptions - witness the response to the news that Mark Zuckerberg topped the giving list for philanthropists in 2013. At a time when the City has had more than its fair share of bad press, more positive news stories are always welcome. The Livery Companies of the City of London give more than £50million to charity each year - a fact which should be more widely known. Perhaps though the strongest reason to take up charitable activity is the impact that it can have on us. Charitable work and fundraising give us the chance to re-evaluate our lives and appreciate how much we have to be thankful for and it can be hugely rewarding to see the impact that we can have on others.
Three years ago the Worshipful Company of Actuaries in conjunction with The Actuary launched a challenge to all actuaries to raise £1million for charity. It is marvelous to note that today we have almost reached that target [would it be possible to insert a suitable graphic here]. If you have a charity fundraising story to tell please do share it with The Actuary at [email protected] . If you would like to nominate someone for the 2014 Phiatus Award please do send a note to me at [email protected] stating the name of the actuary (or student) you wish to nominate and your reasons. If you are interested in finding out more about the Worshipful Company of Actuaries and the charitable work that we do, please contact Rodney Jagelman at [email protected]
Finally it would be inappropriate of me to exhort others to philanthropic activity without stepping forward myself. So in a rather mad moment I have joined a small group of elite athletes (not a description that fits me at all) and signed up to run in the Brathay 10in10 in May this year. This is 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days around a picturesque but demanding Lake District course. For someone who has run only one marathon in his entire life (and is no longer in the prime of youth) this may seem foolish (my wife Becky uses rather stronger language). But I am keen to promote and support the fantastic work of the Brathay Trust (which does great work in support of vulnerable and disadvantaged children - see www.brathay.org.uk) along with the Company of Actuaries Charitable Trust. This is going to be tough, really tough. But with your support it will be a lot easier and if you are minded to support a charity this one really is very worthwhile. Donations at www.virginmoneygiving.com/CharlesCowling will be very gratefully received.