Presidents Column – Sharing experiences at the Presidential Dinners

Jenny Lyon reflects on the recent Presidential Dinners held around Australia and draws some lessons from how actuaries outside the main financial centres in Australia are working flexibly, across a diverse range of fields.

I was fortunate to spend some time in March visiting members outside my home state at the Presidential Dinners. These have tended to be relatively informal affairs and a real opportunity to find out where people are working and what they are interested in from an Institute perspective.  As well as being very enjoyable evenings, a couple of things struck me.

Firstly, the diverse range of jobs:

Members who work outside the main financial centres in Australia seem to be working in a wide range of fields, including government (federal and state), aged care, treasury, universities, regulators, consulting firms, insurers and state compensation schemes.

Some have returned to their home states; others have moved interstate for a variety of reasons.  As a result, they have had to find a way to use their actuarial qualification and skills in ways in which they might not perhaps have expected. This means they have really had to think about how they market their skills and be able to demonstrate the value they can add.  This means being flexible in their approach, open to new challenges and prepared to put the effort in to learning about new industries. 

This last sentence is very close to the message I have been giving to our younger members about how they need to prepare for their career in a rapidly changing work environment.  Flexibility and adaptability are going to be key as companies in our traditional fields of work are being forced to adapt and think differently.

Jenny presents Siqi Tang with his Graduation Certificate at the Presidential Dinner in Brisbane.

Secondly, how we work is changing:

Some of our interstate members work very flexibly, travelling on a regular basis to a “head office” but having the freedom to work from home much of the time.  This reality is much more common that it would have been ten years ago. It requires a commitment from all parties to make this work.  In my experience when it works well, both employee and employer find there are unexpected benefits from a flexible working arrangement. It does require some clear discussion and expectation setting on both sides up front, or it can be less than satisfactory for anyone.

I know this will come as no surprise to those who have worked outside of Sydney, but it reinforced to me how Sydney centric we can seem as a profession.  Having lived in Sydney for many years, I am probably as guilty as anyone of helping to create this impression.  However, I suspect it is due to some extent; to perception and our use of language. 

As an Institute representing all members across the country, we are committed to working harder to ensure all members feel they can participate in and contribute to the profession. We have taken a couple of practical steps in this regard:

  • The webinar equipment at the Institute office has been upgraded and should provide a significantly better experience for participants. This is of benefit for interstate and local members alike.  If you’ve been frustrated in the past, then please give it another go.
  • This new system also has the facility to help improve phone and video meetings with dedicated microphones improving the sound experience for people who are calling in.

Finally, I was struck by how proud everyone was of the work they were doing in their individual state, and the extent to which they wished to engage with others in the profession.

It is clear the Presidential Dinners are an opportunity for them to get together and while many people were reconnecting, newcomers were made very welcome.

I will be visiting members based in London and Asia over the next couple of months as well as hopefully meeting many of you at the Actuaries Summit in Melbourne, where I look forward to discussing how we can all “Think Differently”.

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