Fiona Morrison draws some inspiration from the ski slopes when considering the next generation of leaders of the profession
Despite the fact that I had always planned to use one of my articles to focus on inspirational people, I didn't quite expect to get a eureka moment while ski touring on Petit Mont Blanc in the Alps.
It seems that my passion for this activity is shared with a number of other actuaries, many of whom I have bumped into at other events and locations, ranging from walrus-watching in Svalbard, to IFoA volunteer recognition parties in London. While in itself this is not unusual, what did surprise me was that we also shared the same ski teachers or mountain guides.
I suspect you are wondering what is 'inspirational' about that? Well, that day in the Alps, I was with a fantastic guide.
My reflections, as I stood there halfway up the mountain, were of the generation of British IFMGA mountain guides (now in their 50s) who transformed their profession from climbing - mixed with a bit of skiing -into one of brilliant skiers and accomplished climbers. Their ability to read the mountain and find wonderful snow to ski is amazing.
Those of you who love ski touring will know that you spend hours climbing up mountains in search of the perfect ski run. These hours of gliding (or trudging) up the mountain are often spent chatting with the guide, and I was struck by my conversations with some of the new generation of guides, in their 30s or early 40s, who are also shaping their profession.
For them, being a great skier is now a prerequisite, and it is their focus which I find fascinating. Accidents will always happen in the mountains. What this new generation of guides is interested in is eliminating the weakest part of the system, or the day.
We chat about professionalism, investigations after accidents, and research - do more ski injuries happen on the last run of the day? I gather that they do. What struck me, and has inspired me in my role as president of the IFoA, is that these guides are the leaders of the future, moving their profession forward, adapting in a changing world.
One of the joys of being president is meeting lots of people I would not normally encounter. A group that has stood out, in particular, are those who attended the recent IFoA Awards dinner, where we handed out prizes to the best students, and for the best research papers.
The level of enthusiasm, motivation and ambition from this cohort of actuaries coming through our profession was not only inspiring but also highly infectious.
I left the event reflecting that I had spent the evening in the company of some of the future leaders of our profession, who would seize the diverse business challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.
This also led me to think on what the IFoA needs from its future leaders and whether the people I see now are the only or main luminaries of the future? I suggest not.
Leaders can, and do, have very different attributes and styles. This diversity should and must be encouraged and embraced if we are to succeed as a profession.
What I see in my working life, as part of the IFoA's leadership team with Colin Wilson, Nick Salter and Derek Cribb, is that each of us has a different set of strengths, based on the 'Clifton StrengthsFinder'. What this means, in reality, is that we have true diversity on the leadership team and are stronger for that, because we embrace it and use it to maximise our impact.
The challenge we face today is to encourage the next generation of leaders to come forward. Like those young mountain guides in the Alps, we need our younger members to champion innovation and change, to ensure that we, as a profession, adapt and adjust to meet the demands of the evolving world around us.
And what role can you play in this?
To those of you who have strong ideas on what a leader looks like, be open to other types. To those who may be hampered by not seeing yourselves as a future leader, don't be constrained by self-doubt.
And to all of you, I encourage you to actively engage in the IFoA's Council elections, either as a candidate or as an informed voter.
I look forward to watching those actuaries I met this year - as well as those I didn't - progress as leaders within their own industries, and also hopefully as leaders of our profession in the years to come.
Fiona Morrison is the president of the institute and Faculty of Actuaries