David Hare asks members to speak up to support the Councils new Research and Thought Leadership Board
The IFoA is not just a member support organisation. Our Royal Charter sets out a public interest mission to "advance all matters relevant to actuarial science and its applications" as well as regulating and promoting the actuarial profession. However, if the organisation is not effective in engaging its members in this work, then our chances of success will be much reduced.
Making sure that the member's voice is heard, and feels heard, is a challenge that faces all professional bodies like ours. I was reminded of this recently, when I chaired the inaugural meeting of the IFoA's new Research and Thought Leadership Board.
As an organisation we produce a great deal of research. Most of it hails from the practice boards, working parties and member interest groups. In addition, external research is sponsored or co-sponsored and, of course, there is the Actuarial Research Centre (ARC) programme, with outputs from PhD students that have a focus on creating academic research with a commercial application. All of this research is disseminated across residential conferences, sessional meetings, events, in journals, on the website and in the media. The bank of intellectual capital we preside over is one we should all be justly proud of.
However, research also presents a management challenge. As part of the review of the organisation's governance arrangements last year, some members felt they wanted research and thought leadership to be more accountable, advocating that it should not be enveloped into the existing structure but deserved its own place. This voice was heard and responded to. A number of ideas were floated on how best to achieve and manage this and feedback from a wide range of members was sought. The solution agreed upon by the management board and Council, and widely welcomed by the volunteer research community, was to form a Research and Thought Leadership Board (RTLB) that reported directly into Council. Their remit was to ensure our research programme covered the necessary areas and was responsive to any developing needs and opportunities.
At the first meeting of the RTLB which I will head until a part-time chair is recruited I was able to reflect on how the board had come into being thanks to IFoA members caring enough to push for what they believed in, and the IFoA's attention to its members' input to alter its plans in response.
The executive's research and thought leadership team, led by Sarah Mathieson, are supporting the RTLB and taking their cue from it. I am optimistic about the future facilitation and dissemination of the valuable research that is produced by our volunteers.
So what is the RTLB up to? Member initiative drives a great deal of our research output and will continue to do so, but it was clear that what was lacking was any oversight - a body responsible for the bigger picture and this is what the RTLB is in place to do. It will consider questions such as: Where does the research fit? Do we have the right resources in place? Do we have enough international direction? Is it being disseminated properly?
To put this in context, David Brown's Third Party Working Party, with its third party injury and damages motor insurance claims data, was established to help actuaries better understand the context of their own books against an industry average of pricing data. This data has a broader application, however, offering insights into the very topical issue of so called fraudulent whiplash claims that has attracted the attention of policy makers, the media, and the public in recent years. The RTLB will be considering, among other things, where there may be other opportunities for the IFoA to inform others' discussions, as well as ensuring we as members continue to benefit from the output of a comprehensive and high quality research programme.
We are currently advertising for a chair for the RTLB. This is a paid role requiring the individual to provide around one day a week of their time. It represents a very interesting role for one of our members and I look forward to working with them in the future. Full details will be advertised within The Actuary and on www.actuaries.org.uk in due course.
The Council is exploring many ways we can continue to communicate with you. At the last meeting in February, we were joined by representatives from a number of other professional bodies. We wanted to learn more about how they communicate with their members and capture their responses. We need
to make sure that we are capturing the views of our broader membership and
it is interesting to hear ways in which
other bodies do this.
It is already a busy year for the IFoA with a number of new initiatives aimed at improving the services we offer to members. Your feedback on this is always of interest, so please share any thoughts that you may have with me at [email protected]