Will Actuaries message be heard?

Alan Collins

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I was in attendance on Friday at the first presidential address to the newly formed Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

Mr Bowie’s speech was upbeat and set out an exciting vision for the future direction of the Profession. He was right to talk up the skill set that an actuary has to offer the wider business community, and reinforced that these skills are uniquely combined with a desire to act in the public interest and perform the role of a “trusted advisor”.

Innovation is not necessarily something we actuaries are renowned for, but the address included some promising signs. Tales of actuaries branching out into other areas such as banking, risk management and even electricity pricing were intriguing and should be pursued with vigour by the Profession. Spence & Partners will also look at the new Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary (CERA) qualification with interest and see what the attainment of these skills could bring to our business.

All good, positive stuff, but my concern is: Who’s listening?

My reason for being in London was, in part, to meet up with three financial/pensions journalists. Not one was aware that the presidential address was taking place that day, and at least one did not recall who the Profession’s president actually was. Not a good start!

Rarely do we hear from the Profession on matters of great public interest, such as the ongoing debates around the ageing population and public sector pensions or the much talked about “inflation switch” from RPI to CPI. This void is filled by bodies such as the Pensions Policy Institute or the Office for National Statistics or even one-man bands such as Ros Altmann or John Ralfe. I long for the day that the Profession has the confidence to make its voice heard on important issues and fully support initiatives to make this happen.

On Friday, like most events at the Profession, I still qualified as “the young man sitting at the back”. This is a fairly worrying indictment of the Profession’s lack of engagement with younger members once the exams have been completed.

From the outside, I have always felt that the Profession has had the manoeuvrability of an oil-tanker when it comes to adapting to a fast-changing business environment – council for this, committee for that, with no clear agenda or purpose. Like Mr Bowie, I hope the recent merger of the Faculty and Institute can be a catalyst for change.

To sum up Friday’s event, I am confident that his message in the address was the right one, but am concerned that it was being delivered to the wrong audience (or worse still, no audience at all).

Alan Collins

Post by Alan Collins

Head of Trustee Advisory Services at Spence he provides actuarial, funding and investment advice to trustees and sponsors of ongoing defined benefit schemes.