David Hare outlines why the evolution of the actuarial profession should include making use of rapid advances in technology to take on new roles in business
Over the summer I spent some time thinking about statistics. In September a new report by Roger Porkess, sponsored by the IFoA, suggests that by not teaching statistics across a range of non-mathematical disciplines up to A-Level, students are left unprepared for the reality of modern working life. A gulf is growing between university and A-level syllabuses that leaves British students at a disadvantage. I believe that is a real concern for UK PLC.
As actuaries we work with complex data and statistics as part of our daily working lives - it is what we do. We can therefore, perhaps, become blasé about how the world around us is changing.
Earlier this year I was asked to introduce a fascinating discussion on data analytics. This is a relatively new business tool used to improve decision-making, raise profitability and gain competitive advantage. Turning raw data into meaningful information through modelling and using this information to provide insights for businesses requires significant input from people skilled in interpreting data - and who know which questions the data needs to answer.
The talk focused on the insurance industry as a case study, and one of the questions from the floor was: "Is this topic actuarial?"
The answer was "not solely". The reality is that a number of professions have the skills required to be able to use sophisticated tools like this: IT specialists, management consultants and accountants, for instance. The ability to analyse complex data is no longer a skill that only actuaries provide.
To remain relevant we need to be able to adapt and evolve. Actuaries do not have an automatic right to sit on a company board. As professionals we must each take responsibility for highlighting the benefits our expertise brings to businesses. For instance, these can include understanding technological advances, the efficiencies that they can offer a business and how using this technology can free up our time to focus on other strategic issues.
Businesses want skilled employees, and strong candidates will have ensured that they understand the evolving needs of a company and can demonstrate that they are willing to adapt and take on new roles.
This professional evolution requires more than just compliance with CPD requirements. It is about taking an active interest in advances in technology, whether within the actuarial world or outside. It is about understanding issues that affect businesses, both in and out of your sector.
As members of the IFoA there are opportunities to share experiences and learn lessons from across sectors, regions and disciplines, so this is an advantage that we should all grasp. Those who do will find new, exciting areas that they can apply their expertise to and will demonstrate how relevant and important their skills are. Those who do not will find they are sidelined.
I would urge speed, as the world is changing fast. To delay will mean that changing fast. To delay will mean that others equally as capable will move to secure the work for themselves.
Actuaries have the technical, ethical and judgmental skills to do more than just warn and review. Important though this is, we can provide more than this and if the profession is to thrive we must do so. We should lead, not follow.
I leave you this month with a statistic of our own. August saw our membership numbers pass the 25,000 mark, cementing our position as one of the largest global actuarial associations. As we look to roll out the Certified Actuarial Analyst Qualification next year, I expect this number to increase as individuals working alongside our Fellows in technical support roles recognise the value of our quality qualification and the benefit of belonging to a professional body.
Our future is bright - but only if we remain relevant and seize new opportunities.