Picking the right debates with which to engage is key to our growing reputation, says Nick Salter
Life, on occasions, can be a rollercoaster ride; you are out of control, subject to all sorts of unexpected forces, and never quite sure what is coming next. Don't get me wrong, I am quite partial to a rollercoaster ride. The initial fear that gets replaced with excitement, then the thrill and finally the smile at the end that suggests 'I want to go again'.
If you follow the media it can often resemble a rollercoaster, and last month I found myself riding it as I scanned through my news alerts. The initial fear and dread came as I read the blog from the BBC's economics editor, Robert Peston, which said that the recent UK Labour Party Conference had "only a little more oomph than a convention of actuaries".
But that feeling of dread was soon replaced with excitement as I read Reuters, who highlighted our GIRO conference in their diary as one of the top economic events to watch.
Excitement was soon followed by a smile when it became apparent that the Reuters' point had not been lost on others in the media and the money markets, who were glued to our conference guest speaker, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and what he might say.
The pound strengthened against most major currencies in the lead up to the governor's speech. I don't know about Mr Peston, but to me that felt like quite a bit of 'oomph' for a convention of actuaries.
I guess it is a sign of how the IFoA is changing, and more broadly how the perception of our profession is changing, that we can attract such quality speakers to our conferences. Opinion formers with 'oomph' from beyond our traditional fields who recognise actuaries, not just for what we are doing today, but for what we can do in the future.
So it was reassuring to hear the governor say at the conference that, by including our profession in the new regulatory regime, he recognises the importance of our skills and the range of our contribution. A point reinforced when he stressed the need to consult with actuaries as he develops his "senior manager regime" in the UK. Pleasingly, he also seemed receptive to the idea that actuaries have a lot to offer outside our traditional areas; one of my key ambitions for our profession, and something that I plan to follow up with him when I can.
If any of you have ever been engaged in public policy debates, you will know that this too can feel like being on a rollercoaster.
The fear and dread sets in as the request for a response to a government consultation drops into the inbox, with a turn around time that many budget airlines would be proud of.
Fear and dread turns to excitement as hours of toil and conference calls lead to the production of a unique and distinct contribution to a public policy debate, which, in turn, is then passed to the IFoA's Public Affairs and Consultation Committee for final sign-off.
Excitement turns to a smile when the call comes in from the originating Whitehall department asking to meet with representatives of the IFoA to further explore the contribution we have submitted.
My experience of theme parks is that the biggest smiles are achieved by choosing the right rollercoasters to ride.
Similarly with the IFoA's contribution to the public policy debate, we will only really achieve the most smiles if we pick the right debates with which to engage.
Working alongside our volunteers on the Practice Boards, we have identified the key public policy priorities for the IFoA, where we will look to engage and inform public policy debate.
By focusing on the ageing population, resource and the environment, and the future of investment and regulatory policies, we are concentrating on areas which are crossing our actuarial practice interests.
Where there are economic and social challenges for policymakers, actuarial expertise, knowledge and experience can often bring significant value to the debate.
So we've chosen our rollercoaster rides, and now look forward to the smiles that will follow. Maybe even Mr Peston may change his view of our profession?