CEO Column

CEO Elayne Grace reflects on her first three months in the job including member experiences across Australia, Asia and Europe, and the renewed energy for focusing on customer outcomes and trust.

In my three months so far in the role as CEO, I have met many members in Sydney where Institute HQ is based. I recently had the privilege of meeting many more when I travelled to Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and, as part of our annual Asia Tour to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Malaysia.

It is great to meet members face-to-face to get a real sense of the issues at the top of their mind and therefore facing the profession.

The three themes from this feedback that stood out for me are:

  • actuaries are adapting to the ever-changing environment around them;
  • how the fast-paced adaption of data analytics techniques are challenging actuaries to be clear about the value proposition they bring; and
  • that professionalism and ethics are needed even more in a world where trust needs to be rebuilt.


An exciting time to be an actuary

The work environments are very different across different locations: mature markets versus high growth; significant financial service presence versus none.

And yet for all the differences, everywhere I went I observed immense pride in the profession and a feeling that it is an exciting time to be an actuary.

The truth is we live in a fast-paced world with many complex challenges and opportunities facing us that need logical, disciplined, professional and fair-minded brains to solve them.

In the data analytics space, these opportunities range from the desire to have increased data analytics analysis to help regulators perform their roles to helping companies extract value from their increasing pools of information. 

In Asia, the demand for actuaries is also increasing in line with the adaption of increased risk-based capital systems, IFRS and other prudential regimes.

New energy around public interest

Dr. Aubrey de Grey, biomedical gerontologist and Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, Keynote Address was a highlight of FSF 2018.

There was a vibe of optimism and opportunity at the recent Financial Services Forum in Sydney in May. The revamped program was a great success, not only in terms of the energy generated by the fantastic facilitator Melinda Howes, but also due to the great line-up of speakers (sourced from our new curators – Nicolette Rubinsztein, Jennifer Lang and Jas Singh), which was matched by the enthusiasm of the attendees.

I was particularly delighted to see the strong interest shown in tackling the ‘big’ issues such as changing customer expectations, the Means Assets Test, the Royal Commission, the future of life insurance (discussed in Ilan Leas latest Dialogue paper), fintech, housing affordability and genetic testing.

Thought leaders such as Lucinda Brogden, Damien Mu, Brett Clark, David Knox, Michael Rice, Ian Laughlin, Anthony Asher, and of course Aubrey de Grey really put some meaty issues on the table.

Another pleasing aspect was the attendance of high-level regulators and policymakers including Helen Rowell (APRA), Peter Kell (ASIC), and Darren Kennedy (Treasury) to give members their views on emerging issues and how the profession can respond. The same can be said for high-profile industry players like Paul Howes and Michael Vrisakis who gave valuable insights into the likely legal and industry outcomes of the Royal Commission – a really stimulating discussion.

These difficult issues have been discussed for a long time but now there is a renewed urgency to make progress on them.

The Royal Commission has put the customer right back at the centre of everything we do. This should strengthen the ability for professions and all people working in the financial services to act in the public interest.

The International Actuarial Community

I also caught up with the CEO’s of our international counterparts at the recent International Actuarial Association (IAA) meeting in Berlin. This was a great opportunity to see what the larger actuarial associations (≈30,0000 members each) such as the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK) and the Society of Actuaries (US) are up to, as well as the associations of a similar scale to us: the Casualty Actuaries Society (US), Canadian Actuarial Institute and the Actuarial Society of South Africa.

Senior Vice President Nicolette Rubinsztein pictured attending the All Presidents meeting at IAA in Berlin where over 55 different actuarial associations were represented

We are all dealing with similar issues – promoting the unique value proposition of actuaries, changing regulation including IFRS, staying relevant with strong analytical skills and the importance of professionalism and ethics.

These relationships are open and strong and have been built up by past Presidents, Martin Stevenson Chair of the International Committee and others over the years.

I look forward to building on these relationships as there is much to be learned from sharing with each other. Watch out for more international content going forward!

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