The challenge of delivering change and meeting members’ needs – CEO Column
In this month’s CEO Column, David Bell outlines progress on the Institute’s 2015-17 Strategic Plan, its finances, changes to the HQ team, and challenges to be faced.
“You can’t compete if you are not changing all the time” – David Murray, Actuaries Institute ERM Seminar, 20 September 2016
I was fortunate when I started as the Institute’s CEO in January 2014, that my predecessor Melinda Howes had put in place very solid foundations, including a great team culture, and a strategic plan which still had a year to run.
However, to echo David Murray’s sentiment at the recent ERM seminar, you can’t stand still in this world and not expect to be run over.
As a result, there have been many changes to the Institute, its team, and what we are attempting to achieve for members.
I would add, very quickly at this stage, that these achievements have been made possible through a partnership with the Institute’s governing and leadership body, the Council, the great work of the HQ team, and the contribution of hundreds of members. Our volunteers are critical to our success, support the delivery of many programs, and are the source of many great ideas, and initiatives.
Strategic Plan 2015-17
The 2015-17 Strategic Plan with its five goals, has many linkages to previous Strategic Plans – it would be surprising if it didn’t. The current Plan emphasizes the following key points:
Goal 1: Education renewal. The need to transform our qualification education system and CPD offering so that it keeps up with member demand, new practices, the latest content, as well as better ways to deliver information and our education services.
Goal 2: Members and students first. There is absolute focus on providing members what they want at the best price. Key elements of this approach have included: greater transparency of our operations (e.g. Members can now see Council’s minutes), and making sure we live within our means (more on that below). We are about to launch a new student focused app, Actuarial Sprint, which will provide information, media and videos tailored to their interests.
Goal 3: Greater public attention and influence. These two go hand-in-hand. We have stepped up not only the number of our quality papers and submissions but also how we market them both through free and paid media, including the already established brand marketing campaign: ‘See what we see’.
Goal 4: Better engagement with our Asia-based members. We are now recruiting to provide our members support on-the-ground, in Hong Kong. This will allow us to promote member networking, provide student support, key stakeholder engagement and ensure that there is a clear understanding of the value of the Australian actuarial qualification.
Goal 5: Promoting banking and data analytics as mainstream practice areas. Data analytics, in particular, has a lot of untapped potential, and our energized working group is providing excellent leadership.
The Institute’s finances remain strong and our focus is on sustainable financing of the Institute’s operations. We have moved from budget deficits funded by reserves to generating small surpluses from 2016 onwards. Compared to 2014, our expenditure is $490k (6%) less in 2016 at a total of $8.3m.
The HQ team has been restructured in order to deliver the Strategic Plan. Key among the changes is organising our member facing services: education, events and membership into one team led by Sarah Tedesco. This will allow us to improve coordination when assisting and working with members, as well as managing the work flow of the team. A critical element of the new structure is the rebuilding of our database management system so that it is integrated into team processes and activity.
We have recently appointed Lily Meszaros to build our volunteer and committee capability at HQ and provide better support to volunteers. The services and input volunteers provide the Institute are vital, and we need to harness and recognise that support.
We have also boosted our public policy area, in recent years, through the appointment of an additional staff member. Our communications and marketing team has also boosted its digital publishing expertise which has been important for the successful roll-out of Actuaries Digital.
Some of what’s on our plate now
The HQ team is bedding down the new structure but is also focused on delivering on a large number of initiatives. Some of these include:
- Education Review: This is a critical review of the Institute’s qualification education system. Led by Daniel Smith, and with the help of select Council members and an external expert, a report, which will recommend a new education strategy and business model, will be delivered to Council in March 2017. Members, employers and accredited universities will be consulted throughout the process.
- Disciplinary Scheme Review: One of the core responsibilities of a profession is to be able to regulate itself, and the conduct of its members. The review of the Scheme will be finalised in April 2018 when members consider proposed changes at the AGM. Of course, along the way, members will have opportunities to have their views heard.
- Banking course Part III: After several years of work, a new Part III course is likely to be available for semester 2 2017, and we are currently finalising the Faculty and the syllabus.
- Increasing Public Policy output: Our goal is to publish at least two substantial papers each year, as well as our responses and submissions to range of government and parliamentary inquiries. The next paper to be published is on digital disruption in the insurance industry, followed by a paper on mental health.
- Operational governance review: We are improving the efficiency of the Institute’s operations by: reviewing all of our policies (are they relevant? do they need updating?), financial delegations from Council, support to committees and support to volunteers.
- Code of Professional Conduct Review: The Code was last reviewed in 2009 but given the recent expansion of the profession into emerging practice areas it is timely to consider the Code’s applicability to new professional services.
- Appointed Actuary (AA) Review: APRA’s review of the role of the AA has stimulated much internal discussion especially between GI, Life and Health practice groups. The Institute has submitted its response to the regulator’s discussion paper and we look forward to further engagement with APRA as it develops its thinking on the future role of the AA. The Institute’s role will continue as relevant professional standards will need to be reviewed to reflect the new prudential requirements.
Challenges to be faced
While I firmly believe that the Institute is in a good position through the direction and efforts of the Council, members and the HQ team, its important not to fall into the trap of complacency.
In my view the five biggest challenges the Institute faces, in what should be its constant quest for relevance and providing the best possible service to its members, are:
- Making sure our Strategic Plan takes account of key and relevant future trends, and looks far enough ahead when doing so. Council will be addressing this when it reviews the current Strategic Plan in early 2017.
- Internationalisation of the profession. Capital flows, information exchange, laws and standards and the movement of people now happen at a global level. There are opportunities (and threats) for the Australian arm of the profession which we must be far-sighted about, and act upon.
- Ensuring we have the best possible qualification education model in place for the future. Working out what this model is, gaining member support, and then delivering a new approach is a significant undertaking. It’s vital work though, because the Institute’s actuarial qualification is the raison d’être of the organisation.
- Expanding the reach of the profession and actuaries into new areas of practice. Data analytics represents the most significant current opportunity. There will be others and we need to ensure the trends that are relevant for the profession are identified early, understood and responded to effectively.
- Making sure the Institute itself is fit-for-purpose to be able to deliver on the current strategy and future challenges. The key to this is running a modern, efficient membership organisation, with appropriate governance, which is aligned with the needs and interests of its members.
Your views matter
If you have any views on the any of the matters I have raised I encourage you to share them with me, and your colleagues, through commenting on this article on Actuaries Digital or getting in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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