Welcome to my first Presidential column.  It is somewhat daunting for someone who under the UK education system gave up English at the age of 16 to write a 1,000 word (hopefully) mildly interesting magazine article.  My studies between the ages of 16 and 18 in Maths, More Maths, Even More Maths, Economics and German did nothing to equip me for the task.  Neither did a degree in Pure Maths where I communicated mainly in symbols.  Work has helped me write reports and present results, but until I can do this column in power point I am going to have to develop a new skill. 

In fact writing a column is just one of many new skills I need to work on as President.  My first official role as President-in-waiting last year was to attend the East Asian Actuarial Conference.  I felt well prepared to give a talk on developments in the Australian insurance markets, present to emerging actuarial associations on the importance of professionalism and host drinks with our members at the conference.  I was however less prepared to give the musical performance at the gala dinner expected of each member nation to “represent” their country.  Music was a subject dropped a long time before English, and this was definitely out of my comfort zone.  In some panic I decided to “sing” the Sydney Swans song.  On the night I bounded on the stage decked out in Swans gear – including a rather strange headpiece thanks to Gae Robinson – and with the help of several other Australians belted out the song with more enthusiasm than vocal ability.  Similarly, the thought “this isn’t what I signed up for” went through my head during a dance rehearsal with last year’s President, Daniel Smith, preparing for a tango performance (for charity) at the General Insurance Seminar.

Fortunately, since becoming President my duties have been more in line with what I anticipated – although they still often require me to practise new skills.  Writing the Presidential Address, for example, was a challenge – but far easier than videoing it, and much easier than watching the video (think listening to your own recorded voice and then multiply the squirm factor by 10). 

I hope that many of you have read the address, or watched it – for the content rather than the performance.  It provides some background to the Institute’s strategic plan for 2015-2017 and some of the things that I hope to achieve during my Presidential year.  You will be hearing more about the strategic plan from the Institute so I’ll just summarise the five goals.

  • Goal 1 – Update and modernise qualifications.
  • Goal 2 – Improve engagement with members and students.
  • Goal 3 – Have a significant influence on a range of decision makers and employers.
  • Goal 4 – Be a supplier of choice of the local actuarial societies in Asia for CPD.
  • Goal 5 – Extend the reach of actuaries in non-traditional areas.

These goals are focused on ensuring the ongoing health and vibrancy of the actuarial profession.  Council’s vision is for a profession that is widely and highly regarded, which has plenty of employment opportunities and is attractive to top students.  David Bell and the HQ team have prepared an excellent document on the strategic plan, outlining the specific actions under each goal, timeframes and success metrics.  This will be distributed to all members soon. 

The strategic plan was on the agenda of the first Council meeting of 2015 (my first one as Chair).  Chairing five hour meetings is another skill I’ll be working on during my year as President.  Managing the very full agenda was a challenge but we finished the meeting only five minutes late, had good discussions and made decisions on each key item.

The Institute has already circulated a summary of the meeting outcomes so I’d like to touch on just one topic from the meeting – Council’s approval of a revised public policy framework developed by the Public Policy Council Committee.  The Institute has made considerable progress in public policy in the last couple of years.  The Financial System Inquiry (FSI) ast year and the recent Intergenerational Report have underlined the issues that Australia will face in the future due to demographic changes.  Questions about who will look after the ageing population and whether the younger generation will be able to afford to are making headlines.  Finally, retirement incomes are sexy! The Institute has been a significant contributor to this discussion, and a number of the ideas in our FSI submission made it into David Murray’s recommendations. 

One of the most enjoyable Presidential duties is the CPD tour.  We recently finished the Australian leg of the tour, having visited Adelaide and Perth in the first week of March, hosted the session in Sydney the following week and then onto Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra.  For me the tour is an opportunity to meet our members across the country (and later in the year in Asia and New Zealand).  For members it is a chance to network, let me and David Bell know what you think about the profession and the Institute, and importantly get some CPD. 

The response to this year’s session has been extremely positive.  Framed around decision-making in the face of strategic risk, and covering ethics and leadership, the session uses examples from the military and business and has provoked lively discussion and debate at each venue.  I have seen the session three times now and have enjoyed each one, since at each venue members’ questions have taken the discussion on a different path.  

All up, my early days of being President have been very enjoyable and full of new experiences – some more expected than others!  I’m looking forward to the coming months and will keep working on those writing skills in reporting back to you through this column.  Suggestions for topics are of course always welcome!

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