Lunch Feed(back)

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, apparently said: ’The free lunch has still to be invented.’

So with that in mind, I would like to thank the 120 or so Members who I have caught up with over lunch (sandwiches mind you), and the invaluable feedback and advice that I have received from them. The lunches have been held in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

I am going to continue them next year and extend them to one each in Canberra, Adelaide and Perth, when I am visiting for other Institute business. Registrations are open now either through the ‘Events’ tab on the Institute’s website, or you can email the Events Team.

On a more light-hearted note I will let you know the five clichés I try to avoid during a business meeting (or, in fact, at any time) in my ‘Please explain!’ segment, and hope that I don’t cause offence on the way through.

I have attempted to summarise the key issues that have been raised with me during the lunches, both positive and negative, and my response to the points that were raised. I think it’s important in terms of transparency that I do so.

As you can appreciate I haven’t included everything that has been talked about. That doesn’t mean I haven’t acted upon the feedback you have given me. Sometimes the most important things are the smaller operational matters which can cause irritation or confusion, and can be easily fixed.


There has been a lot of discussion about the education and learning role of the Institute. Some of the thoughts and feedback provided to me were:

  • There is a need to broaden the skills of actuaries, particularly young actuaries, so they can function and compete in the modern workplace.
  • Better ties and communication with the university sector are required when designing education programs.
  • Actuaries will need to build their skills to take account of the growth industries of the future, e.g. digital disruption, big data, health, genetic testing, energy and investments.
  • It is important to design the best possible education, and entry processes, for qualification, so that the Profession attracts the best and brightest talent.

Some Members said that our education system seemed to be working well, and change should only be made, after careful consideration.

Each of these points is being addressed in some way by the ‘Educating the actuary of the future project’. The Education Strategy Working Group, which has been running this project, provided its final report to Council in September. One of the key points is to address international issues (such as exemptions and the International Actuarial Association’s review of its minimum educational standards). This work would be undertaken by a new working group under the Education Council Committee’s umbrella (focusing on Parts I and II), working in tandem with the Presidential Committee which would liaise with international organisations. Critically university representatives will be included on the new working group. A second working group will consider Part III courses, including data analytics and banking.

Related to these points were suggestions that we need to make our CPD program more systematic and comprehensive. This is a matter which the Council is likely to address during its strategy review for 2015-17, at year’s end.

Jennifer Baxter, David Bell talking to Jill Withers and Chao Qiao
Jennifer Baxter, David Bell talking to Jill Withers and Chao Qiao


A number of the lunch groups picked up on the theme of change (though not all agreed on the extent of this change), and what this means for the Profession. This also picks up the education and learning points from above, as well as the interests of most Members in making sure we promote the Profession and the skills of individual actuaries. Some of the feedback has been:

  • Actuaries are facing competition for jobs – it is important for the Institute to be promoting the transferable skills and uniqueness of the Profession.
  • The Institute needs to anticipate new business and societal trends.
  • The Profession is not changing as fast as the world around us.
  • The Profession should better promote itself and raise awareness about the contribution that actuaries make to business – public policy is an important element of that exercise.
  • The development and appropriate communication of public policy is a very important way for the Institute to project positive image of the Profession.
  • It was suggested that the President/CEO have briefing sessions with key journalists.
  • For those who had seen the brand marketing campaign ‘See what we see’ it was generally acknowledged as an effective way to promote the Profession. Some Members, however, were less convinced about the value of a brand marketing campaign for the Profession, on the basis that ‘deeds not words’ were more effective in securing the reputation of actuaries.

There are a number of threads to pick up here on what we communicate and how we do so.

The Institute continues to look at communicating externally on a number of different fronts. These include: promoting relevant public policy, and responding to the key issues of the day – in particular the Financial System Inquiry being chaired by David Murray. The public policy team will continue to address this. There are two more white papers in the pipeline – on the future cost of providing health and, retirement incomes and superannuation. These will be published soon. There were also some other great suggestions about other topics that the Institute could develop.

We continue to engage with key government officials (particularly Treasury) on public policy issues so that we are relevant and up-to-date.

The ‘See what we see’ campaign continues and the second round will start in November – this has been improved following feedback and analysis of the first round.

Furthermore we are making sure that we stay in touch with key media to ensure that they understand our interest in key issues, and publish any commentary we choose to make.


Chao Qiao, Jill Withers, Stephen Lee and Chris Scheuber
Chao Qiao, Jill Withers, Stephen Lee and Chris Scheuber

Some of the feedback I have received has been: Member communication should be enhanced so that it is more interactive, timely and makes use of new technology. Response: There is a project underway by the Institute to do this – our digital communication program which I have previously written about in Actuaries Magazine.

Actuaries not working in the mainstream of the actuarial profession should be better supported. This has been a sustained piece of feedback, and is related to the earlier point about the emerging practice areas. Response: As a part of the Council’s review of the Institute’s strategy for 2015-17, we are making sure we get input from representatives of the different areas of actuarial practice.

There is a need to ensure that younger Members, and less well engaged Members, are encouraged to participate more in the affairs of the Institute. Response: There is widespread recognition of the need to do this. Committees and HQ are always on the lookout for younger Members to participate.

I also acknowledge the feedback from some Members that the Institute needs to strike the right balance between keeping Members informed and not over communicating by email.


There was acknowledgement that there are benefits to the Institute engaging in Asia, given 15% of our Members are based there. Others said that the Institute needs to be clear about what it wants to achieve in Asia, and how best to do this with the limited resources available. Some thought that while it was important to provide services to all of our Members, we should not forget that the Institute is primarily an Australian based organisation.

Council is addressing this matter and the Asia Strategy Working Group will be submitting its proposal for Council to consider as part of the review of the Institute’s strategy.


There is an increasing over-supply of actuarial graduates. This is something I do need to grapple with and understand the drivers and implications of this apparent trend, including the role of universities.

Connecting with High School students – we need to build a more comprehensive program. This is related to the point above. The Institute does have a High School program in place. I will be looking to see if we can improve it in any way.


Five sayings that are the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard (to me anyway):

“Reaching out”

– as in “Let’s reach-out to our members”. Omg did he/she really say that? How about “let’s contact our Members”?

“Let’s right-size it”

– (or indeed any of the other clichés that refers to dismissing staff). Enough said.

“I’m going to sound like a broken record here…”

– Well yes you are!

“At the end of the day…”

– No! Stop! Why do people say that? It adds nothing.

“It’s the old 80-20 rule…”

– Hang on, I say that! …but really shouldn’t.


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