President’s Column – Diversity

In his Presidential Column, Lindsay Smartt focuses on diversity and asks whether we are doing enough in this important area.

I recently had the opportunity of presenting at the IAA Regional Development Seminar in Gurgaon, India on the eve of the 20th Asian Actuarial Congress (AAC).

Despite struggling to keep delegates’ attention during the session –  the opposition I faced was that my timeslot coincided with the US presidential election results coming through – there was still considerable interest in my talk and it was received well.

From the outset, I announced I would be calling for updates on the presidential election race from the floor, to be shared with the group, as they came to light. By the end of my talk, it was clear that Trump had won.  As I was discussing the result at the AAC, a colleague who is in tune with US politics commented that Clinton lost because she is female. 

I also had opportunity at this meeting to see who was on the judging panel for a recent eminent Insurance Awards event. I was staggered to find that the panel consisted of 23 men. Only one female judge was present amongst seven international judges.  Having only one female out of a total 30 judges on the panel was to me, a sad reflection on the state of gender diversity in the industry in the region.

Of course, diversity has a much broader scope than gender diversity.

In my time as President, I have tried to focus on diversity. I spoke of it in my Presidential Message.  Typically, this has been in areas like looking at the makeup of proposed memberships of committees, working groups and the like. I also try to take opportunities to challenge whether we have a diverse outcome as circumstances arise.

What else is the Institute doing to promote diversity? Is it enough, or should we do more?

My predecessor, Estelle Pearson, made some great progress to further promote gender diversity through establishing some new events. 

Members also write on the topic.  A really interesting and practical article by Jan Swinhoe on diverse teams was recently published in Actuaries Digital and I suggest you have a read if you haven’t done so already.

Diversity in the global profession

One thing the role of President has given me is greater visibility and contact with other actuarial bodies. 

The two largest groups: the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) and Society of Actuaries (SOA), have both taken specific steps to further diversity. The SOA formed a Diversity and Inclusion Committee earlier this year. 

The IFoA articulated its Diversity Strategy at the start of this year, which includes the following aims:

  • to create and support an inclusive environment;
  • to embrace the value of diverse perspectives; and
  • to build awareness and understanding of diversity within the profession for the benefit of our members, the public and profession as a whole.

The IFoA has also articulated over 30 specific actions against these strategies. When I read them, there are some that we are doing but others that leave me questioning whether we should be doing more.

“I am a firm believer that diversity and inclusion lead to better outcomes whatever the situation.”

In most business and society forums, diversity is a current topical issue. In my work outside the Actuaries Institute, it is an ever-present focus. I am a firm believer that diversity and inclusion lead to better outcomes whatever the situation. Apart from the evidence from research and the currency of the topic, I support an Institute focus on diversity, firstly to help us achieve best outcomes, and secondly because I see people as equals. To the extent that business and society has in the past been biased, and delivered concentration and exclusion rather than diversity and inclusion, I believe we must all do what we can to redress this.

I would be most interested to hear your views on this topic.  Please drop me a line or post a comment below this article.

It is pleasing to see that gender diversity in the role of President of the Actuaries Institute is present. As your first President to serve both immediately following and preceding female Presidents, I certainly hope it is not too long before this is repeated.

Council will be reviewing its Strategy in early 2017 and I will be asking Council to consider whether it needs to specifically articulate strategies and plans for diversity. 

Latest Happenings in our Actuarial Community

My previous column was on the important single topic of the Appointed Actuary review, so I pick up now on happenings in our actuarial community over that last few months.

Travel has taken me to New Zealand (member dinners, presentation to NZSOA, visits to RBNZ, Commission for Financial Capability and Victoria University), China (annual meeting of the China Actuarial Association), Indonesia (meeting with the Indonesia Society of Actuaries President and member event), Singapore (40th anniversary celebration) and India (IAA seminar and 20th AAC).  Each occasion gave ample opportunities for furthering our important relations with other actuarial bodies.

President of the Institute Lindsay Smartt and IFoA CEO, Derek Cribb
President Lindsay Smartt and IFoA CEO, Derek Cribb at the 17th China Actuarial Annual Conference.


I’ve attended many and varied Australian member activities (from major seminars on Health, Banking and Data to smaller gatherings) and appreciate very much the opportunity to meet with members and hear your perspectives on our great profession. Let me highlight just a few:

  • Professionalism courses – having attended the very first course we offered in 1984, I value engaging with our future actuaries in what is always a lively environment.
  • Member dinner in Tasmania – the President hasn’t previously included Tasmania in the various state dinners. I was pleased to change this and to host a very enjoyable dinner and hear of the interesting things happening in this very engaged group.
  • Past Presidents – our past presidents are still actively considering the state of the profession and future opportunities. It was a pleasure dining with them.    

I recently met with David and Delyce Orford, following the announcement in the AFR, of their generous donation in support of the profession.

The launch of the CAA Global joint venture between the IFoA and the SOA is an interesting very recent development, following the launch of the CAA designation by the IFoA a couple of years ago. I held preliminary discussions with my counterparts from both the IFoA and SOA in India last week.  Council will be considering this matter at its next meeting in December.

Speaking of Council, I trust you find my post-meeting report informative.

I will finish with a reminder to all those members eligible to please vote in the Council Elections and have your say if you haven’t done so already.

I welcome your feedback on this column or any matter.

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