Open-access content Monday 30th April 2012
Jane Curtis looks at progress in member services and the importance of volunteers
There is one area of the profession that concerns all of us, whether student member, Associate or president, on a regular basis. That area is member support.
The term encompasses all the activities that the Profession provides to meet the wide-ranging and growing needs of its members. This includes a variety of tasks, from organising continuing professional development (CPD) events to targeting communications and establishing member interest groups. In recent months, we have seen a real leap in the quality and quantity of member services.
The 400 Club is one of a number of initiatives. We asked for 400 volunteers to form a representative sample of the profession. The club has members spanning all ages, locations and practice areas, from as far afield as Australia and Hong Kong. These members enable us to track our progress and the club gives them an opportunity to provide their views on how we approach issues. Useful feedback has been given on the communication and engagement survey and on our second survey, the Actuaries' Code and new qualification.
In addition to the inaugural 400 members, we have a reserve list of members who would like to get involved in future. If you wish to be added to the list or participate as a volunteer in any way, please contact volunteer engagement manager Debbie Atkins ([email protected]).
On the Profession's website under the menu item of 'Communities', you will discover a list of topic areas and international locations, allowing members to interact with others sharing similar interests or work-related concerns. It is easy to join a community and contribute to discussion threads, and share knowledge and information. New communities are developing all the time. The most recent was set up in India during a member event held at the Global Conference of Actuaries in Mumbai in February. It already has nearly 100 members.
We are also embracing social media, and our LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter feeds have new followers joining steadily. Twitter is regularly used at conferences and provides instant feedback on topics discussed. We are also recording events, so that a larger number of members can benefit, no matter where they are based. These have included addresses by Sir Harry Burns, chief medical officer for Scotland, and economist Andrew Dilnot, plenary sessions at major conferences and podcasts of workshops. New opportunities to volunteer are displayed on the website but are more instantly available via an RSS feed.
It's good to make use of technology, but we must not lose sight of the importance of face-to-face contact. So I was very happy to be able to speak at Queen's University Belfast earlier in the year at an event that marked the establishment of the Society of Northern Ireland Actuaries (SONIA). This was the first of a series of events bringing together both practising and student actuaries in Northern Ireland.
Similar regional societies thrive across the UK and I hope to be speaking to many more of them before my time as president is up. A recent visit introduced me to the Bristol Actuarial Society, and I will also be speaking to members in the Channel Islands and at the Yorkshire Actuarial Society. It is a perfect way to engage with members and listen to their views.
We are also starting to interact more actively with employers, and aim to create a partnership that will both boost the quality and relevance of CPD and improve communication. Last month, I visited employers in China with Memoria Lewis, membership director, to do just that.
At a special dinner at Staple Inn Hall, the Profession celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Joseph Burn Prize, our achievements as a learned society and those of our volunteers. At the dinner, our chief executive, Derek Cribb, announced the launch of the Actuarial Research Centre in Edinburgh. This is an initiative of the Scottish Board, which complements a range of research projects and awards to advance our thought leadership goals across the UK and internationally.
The objective is to advance actuarial science and provide a centre of excellence for risk management. There will be funding provided for three PhD students over the next five years.
I hope all of you reading this feel that there are now many more opportunities for you to be heard and for you to volunteer your time and skills for the benefit of your profession. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the profession. I look forward to your participation.