Presidents Column – Sharing experiences at the Presidential Dinners

Read­ing time: 3 mins

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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About the author

Jenny Lyon

Jenny is the 2017 President of the Actuaries Institute. She is a Director of SKL, a specialist actuarial recruitment firm. She has over 20 years’ experience advising and recruiting actuaries in Australia, New Zealand and across Asia. Jenny holds two non-executive director roles and convenes the Education Development Group for the Institute.

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