Moving to the future beat

Actuaries Digital’s outgoing Chief Editor, Sharanjit Paddam, reflects on his experience over the last two years.

Our greatest weakness as a profession is our success. The more we as actuaries cling to our traditional markets and attempt to shore up our defences, the more we secure our demise. 

We are not alone. Like many market leaders our greatest assets contain the seeds of our fall. Nokia, once the largest producer of mobile phones, stuck to devices built around voice rather than their customers’ growing need for data at their fingertips. Microsoft, once the leading provider of operating systems, stuck to deskbound PCs rather than freeing people to work and play anywhere and with their own rules. Taxis circled their regulated licence, rather than providing travellers with a fast, cheap and reliable service. The more the Australian economy sticks to housing and mining, the more likely we will end-up stranded in a hole.

And yet, we are valued for our measured approach to change, our steady hand on the tiller of financial decisions, our addiction to detail, our incessant scepticism to new-fangled plans. There’s a good reason the actuary is the last to dance on the boardroom table. Sadly, in our pursuit of respectability, we might also have forgotten how to move to the beat of the future.

We are the net result of the ceaseless battle between the forces of change and the forces of inertia. Every decision we make – or is made on our behalf by our Council – risks a divisive and decisive split in two. In a membership organisation the rule of the majority is not nearly enough – we need real leadership that brings all parties to the party table wearing the party hats. For me, that’s been a tough and frustrating lesson to learn. I have watched with admiration the work of successive Councils led by our presidential triumvirate who have walked that treacherous path with grace and assurance (at least on the outside).

The transition of the magazine from our monthly hard copy to a daily digital service has been a risk for the profession. A case can be made that we have left behind our loyal readership for an unknown future audience – we’ve abandoned our inheritance and aren’t looking back at the farm. Whilst I am still convinced it has been the right move, both from the feedback we have received, and from our mutual instincts as an editorial committee, only time can pull back the curtains on our success or otherwise.  It has been an exhilarating journey, and I’ve greatly appreciated the fellowship of our dedicated and passionate committee and talented staff, as well as our growing circle of supporters and contributors. I am in a huge debt to the sage advice of Katrina McFadyen and Elayne Grace in helping us keep close to our audience, rather than pandering to my obsession for radical innovation.

There are still giant hurdles remaining: our comments section has not yet become a place for daily discussion and debate for our members; we still have an overly inwardly focus, rather than looking outwards to share our conversation and value with others who work in our current and future industries. Perhaps that will be the task of the next Chief Editor?  But rather I hope that she will take her own measure of the land, and choose her own way to roll.

Thank you.

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CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.

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