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President's comment: Soon is now

David Hare opens the new year with good intentions and a motto to encourage us all to hit the ground running in 2014

06 FEBRUARY | DAVID HARE
David Hare

My 11-year-old son, Iain, and I were discussing slogans recently and I set him a challenge – to come up with a motto for me. His suggestion was “Soon is now!” and I think this fits me rather well. It is short, to the point and feels relevant. As I enter the final half of my term as president, it really encapsulates how I’m feeling. 

There are two scheduled Council meetings in February and May, and as such I have very little time left to put forward matters for their consideration – I must act soon and not delay – “Soon is now”. 

Last year I used these columns as an opportunity to consider the challenges we face and shared my view with you that the IFoA is at (or, at least, approaching) a crossroads; in a world that is changing fast. How do we ensure that we continue to be relevant and respond to the changes that impact on actuaries and the work that we do? For example, are the main areas of our expertise in insurance moving from centre stage, to be replaced by analytics and more and more creative ways to deliver what customers want? 

A similar situation has been happening in pensions for some time, but will the speed of change accelerate? Against this background, what must the IFoA and its members do to reflect that change and ensure that our potentially broad contribution remains relevant?

One of the developments that I am conscious could be significant is the new Certified Actuarial Analyst (CAA) qualification we will be rolling out this year, and which I believe may change the profession and its relevance in the global financial world. The CAA career path is likely to be different to that of a qualified fellow, with the potential to work in analyst roles across traditional and non-traditional sectors, like banking and investment. Within Council, we are also continuing to consider the career path of the traditional actuary, and how it may be impacted by changes in employer resourcing strategies. Over the coming months I hope to consult with other professions who can offer a different insight into the challenges of a changing world, and indeed may have found appropriate solutions. I will also be seeking feedback from members and Council on these questions. Do get in touch. I will be pleased to hear your thoughts.

During my recent visit to Australia with Trevor Watkins, our Director of Education, we were invited to attend a meeting of the Actuaries Institute’s Council to discuss the challenges facing actuaries in Australia. We also met with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and employers of actuaries. They face similar issues to us, and the insights we picked up there will be fed back into our future strategy discussions. 

I don’t know about you, but I find the 

start of the year is a good time to stop, reflect and commit to resolutions for the coming months. My resolutions include taking more exercise – in particular cross-country running with Iain and playing more (and possibly better) golf! I’m sorry to say that I haven’t started yet – maybe “Soon is now!” applies to my New Year resolutions too.

With regards to the IFoA and the work that we do as actuaries, I would encourage all of us to adopt a (rather belated) New Year resolution to engage even more on the issues that are relevant to our employer, clients and users and continue to develop our commercial skills. In a recent discussion with a planning director of a major life company, the view I heard was that the actuarial style could lead to a cautious and less profitable business model than a more commercial approach. As actuaries, we need to develop a reputation for ‘responsible commercialism’ – that recognises risks, but still finds opportunities that are worth taking. 

Thus, I would encourage all of us to start this year with a question: “What can I do this year to help my career and the influence of my profession?” 

There are probably many areas where we need to change others’ perceptions of us. This will take time, but the sooner we start – “Soon is now!” 

I hope 2014 is a great year for you. I’m certainly keen to give it my best shot – particularly the first six months, before I hand the president’s badge to Nick Salter. That won’t be long in coming, so I need to make the most of the time and not miss opportunities to serve the profession through unnecessary delay. 

Soon is now!