In his final editorial for The Actuary as president, Philip Scott acknowledges the high-profile work of the Pensions PEC and looks back on an eventful year
During the past year, I have been looking in some detail at the work of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries' Practice Executive Committees (PECs) and informing you of their achievements and the forthcoming work they will be doing on your behalf. The last of these reviews covers the role of the Pensions PEC.
A highlight of the committee's recent activity has been the response to public consultations. In the 12 months to April 2013, it has issued no fewer than 20 formal responses.
In March this year, the PEC responded to the Department for Work and Pensions' call for evidence on 'Pensions and Growth: Whether to Smooth Assets and Liabilities in Scheme Funding Valuations'. Included was the feedback received from members working in pensions. This followed a series of regional meetings with some 200 pensions actuaries, who advise trustees and also employers, to discuss the call for evidence. The response was picked up by the media, particularly by Professional Pensions magazine, and the weight of opinion was sufficient for the proposals to be dropped from the spring Budget.
Pensions PEC members also attend regular meetings with representatives of government and other policymakers, including the Pensions Regulator, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Financial Reporting Council. By maintaining a continual dialogue with these authorities, we continue to be well placed to contribute to and, where appropriate, stimulate key public debate on future policies and promote the work of actuaries in the pensions industry.
Jane Curtis, the immediate past-president and an experienced pensions actuary, spoke in April at the European Pensions Strategy Conference. Her talk did much to raise awareness of the public interest angle of the work of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) in relation to pensions policy and encouraged attendees to consider the 'consumer perspective' in the work they do.
Along with a number of other members, Jane has been invited to take part in further government policy groups looking at developing their flagship 'Defined Ambition' pension scheme and the associated policy group looking at the consumer perspective.
Another theme of the Pensions PEC is to ensure that provision of continuing professional development for members is sufficient and targeted at the appropriate level and themes. The forthcoming Pensions Conference in June will cover a wide range of topics and is planned to include a keynote speech from pensions minister Steve Webb.
There will also be a range of presentations. Neil Williams, chief economist for Hermes Fund Managers, will look at the global economic outlook. Carol Jagger, AXA chair of Epidemiology of Ageing at Newcastle University's Institute for Ageing and Health, will look at healthy life expectancy and quality of life in old age. Workshops will include topics of international interest, including an alternative indexation of equities and the European Commission review of the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP) Directive.
The pensions research subcommittee is actively considering ideas for new research working parties. It is currently overseeing the output of the Working Party on Swaps and Liability Driven Investment, which presented at the Pensions Conference in 2012.
In my opening article for The Actuary last July, I explained that my task for my term as president would be to work on developing the IFoA's brand into one that stands out for quality and trust in financial matters.
We now have a new brand, launched at the end of April, with a sound set of values that we want our members and stakeholders to associate with us - integrity, community and progress. I look forward to watching these values embed and seeing our hard work bear fruit for the benefit of our members.
During the past year, at my meetings with the PECs, I have spoken about the skills I believe our members may need as demands on actuaries change and new opportunities emerge. Among these are leadership skills and a focus on the end-user of the financial products that actuaries help to design - particularly with the current lack of trust in the financial services industry. Please do get in touch if you think we can do more to highlight these issues.
Lastly, this being my closing article as president of the IFoA, I would like to wish David Hare all the very best for his term as president when I hand over at the annual general meeting on 24 June. David will make an excellent president and he is very well placed to progress the exceptional work that our volunteers and staff do on behalf of our membership.