Read about developments with membership services, inclusion and social responsibility, and the SOA’s international strategy MAY 2019
From left to right: 2018–2019 SOA President James M. Glickman, 2017–2018 SOA President Mike Lombardi and SOA Executive Director Gregory W. Heidrich at the SOA headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois. Not pictured: 2019–2020 SOA President Andrew D. Rallis. Kenneth L Dixon Photography
Leaders from the Society of Actuaries (SOA) gathered at the Schaumburg, Illinois, headquarters to reflect on the past year and to share their perspectives on the future of the organization and the actuarial profession. These discussions were with 2017–2018 SOA President Mike Lombardi, FSA, CERA, FCIA, MAAA; 2018–2019 SOA President James M. Glickman, FSA, MAAA, CLU; 2019–2020 SOA President Andrew D. Rallis, FSA, MAAA; and SOA Executive Director Gregory W. Heidrich.
We previously shared their discussions of the SOA 2017–2021 Strategic Plan, key activities from 2018 and predictive analytics. This third part of the series focuses on membership services, inclusion and diversity, and international strategy.
Membership Developments and Services
Q: What is the SOA’s long-term growth strategy?
Heidrich: One of the most important initiatives underway in 2019 is an analysis of long-term growth prospects for the profession. We have a team working on this analysis right now, and the SOA Board will start its conversations on the issue soon. We also intend to bring in consultants to look at our organization and strategy—to help us examine the environment, our training and the markets in which our members work. We will identify and analyze pressures on the profession, opportunities and how can we help our members be most successful. It’s an exciting project and one that our members and employers will have a great deal of interest in and input on as we get underway.
Q: With an increased focus on technology, what tools has the SOA created for members?
Heidrich: We introduced a new SOA Meetings application last year that has been very popular. We also developed an online member professional development catalog that allows members to search for all of the SOA’s different professional development opportunities in several ways.
Another technology-related tool I’m particularly excited about is for our candidates. The My SOA portal allows candidates to see their personal education pathway and where they are on that pathway. They can see and track their progress through the exams and modules as they work their way through the exam process.
Glickman: I’m excited about the digital programming that’s aimed at millennials. As an older FSA, it was tough at first to get accustomed to using the computer, and then the mobile phone. But as I noticed today, I’m readily using only my phone to find whatever I need, whenever I need it.
The SOA is going to have information on professional development, exams, YouTube presentations and much more available in bite-size chunks. All of this is aimed at being more responsive to the preferences of new generations and new technological advancements.
Rallis: When I describe the SOA website, I say it’s a one-stop shop—there’s a resource for nearly everything. When visiting the SOA website, our members will find a number of useful tools and applications to benefit their practice.
Q: One of the major services the SOA provides is professional development. How is the SOA thinking about delivering professional development to its members in the future?
Heidrich: We’re thinking about how we build on our existing professional development offerings—how to make them more valuable to our members and how we can use them to help attract more members. We will explore how people are getting their initial and continuing education today. Every major university now offers courses online to anybody, anywhere—oftentimes for free. That’s revolutionary, and we’re going to look at these types of offerings for our own professional development. I see a shift happening. We’re moving into a world where we’re going to deliver substantive professional development through additional channels in an on-demand manner.
We are beginning a major review of the structure we use to deliver professional development. We’re looking at the types of programs we offer, to whom we offer them and how we deliver them. It will be important to identify new channels through which to offer professional development opportunities. We have a digital services initiative to ensure we’re producing and providing resources that work well in a digital environment.
Rallis: Introducing the interactive aspects of technology into our live meetings is another new approach. I’ve gone to many meetings now where the sessions become much more interesting because there are not just three speakers up in front of you telling you what they think you need to know: They get the audience to participate in the session using technology.
Inclusion and Diversity
Q: How is the SOA thinking about inclusion and diversity?
Rallis: In the United States, we are underrepresented in certain ethnicities, especially among African Americans and Hispanics. The SOA’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee is taking on several projects to support the growth of the profession among these groups. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS)/SOA Joint Committee on Career Encouragement and Actuarial Diversity is also part of this effort to raise awareness of the profession among students.
There are several organizations with which we partner to address those kinds of imbalances, such as the Organization of Latino Actuaries and the International Association of Black Actuaries. We also work with The Actuarial Foundation, and in 2018 the SOA had a member donation matching program to support free math tutoring in major cities. I encourage members to learn more about the Foundation’s Math Motivators tutoring program.
Glickman: You need to look to some of the root causes of the actuarial profession being very insular and the fact that most people who become actuaries only become actuaries because they hear about the profession from another actuary. The natural outcome of that is you’re going to have a profession comprised of the same type of people. As Andy mentioned, the SOA’s sponsorship of The Actuarial Foundation’s Math Motivators program is oriented toward pairing actuaries and actuarial students with math students in urban high schools and middle schools. The students get great math tutoring that helps them in all kinds of ways. They also can hear firsthand about what actuaries do, and if these students have the skills, they start to migrate toward it as a career because it is a great profession. The Actuarial Foundation is planning to expand the program to more cities across the United States, and the SOA is again matching members’ donations to support the Math Motivators program.
Heidrich: We’ve also partnered with the CAS, DePaul University and Chicago Public Schools to sponsor and carry out two high school actuarial days in Chicago. DePaul University has a special focus on first generation college students, so attendees were mostly Latino and African American students. Both events were popular and resulted in several hundred high school students spending a day at DePaul learning about the actuarial profession. Because that model was successful, we hope to expand in 2019 to other cities and continue to do this in Chicago.
We want to make sure the SOA is a welcoming, inclusive organization—a place for people no matter where they’ve come from, what their circumstances are, or what their background is. We want to make sure everyone can find opportunities in this profession, and that’s what we’re creating within the SOA.
An International Perspective
Q: The actuarial profession is global, and SOA members and candidates reflect that. Can you speak to the scope of our international presence and what that means for the SOA?
Rallis: Our traditional footprint in North America focuses on Canada and the United States, but our fastest growth has been outside of North America, especially in Asia. Our strategy as an organization reflects this perspective. The SOA Board established an International Committee to oversee our activities outside of our traditional markets. It is organized into several subcommittees: one focused on China, one focused on greater Asia (other than China) and one focused on Latin America. Each of those markets has a developing need for actuaries that’s growing at its own pace, so our strategies are very much tailored to the needs of the local markets.
Glickman: The SOA is truly a worldwide organization and has what I think is the highest level of professionalism and educational training. It makes the best inroads. One of the reasons it has been successful in Asia is because actuaries there seek the recognition of that professionalism in their home jurisdictions as well as opportunities to work for international and global organizations. Clearly having one-sixth of our membership in Asia is significant, but when you think of it relative to world populations, this number is tiny and therefore has huge growth potential. We’re also analyzing opportunities in Latin America and in the Middle East, as well as other areas of Asia and Africa. However, most of our international effort is focused on East and Southeast Asia.
Heidrich: The United States and Canada are mature markets for the kinds of products and services that traditionally involve our members’ work. Both change and great growth opportunities exist in those markets. There’s also disruption going on in those fields, as our members know. But outside of North America, rates of insurance penetration are often much lower. The profession is still quite new in some parts of the world, so we see many opportunities for growth. Andy and Jim both mentioned we’re exploring opportunities in Latin America—a dynamic place! As multinational companies move there, and domestic employers grow, they need experts to do the kinds of things actuaries do, and that’s a real opportunity for SOA members.
Rallis: The SOA sponsored a highly attended seminar in Brazil in 2018. It brought recognition to the SOA, and it helped us fulfill our mission of advancing actuaries in that country.
Lombardi: We had a group of volunteers look at whether we should be offering our exams in languages other than English. We already offer them in French in Canada (that’s a legal requirement), but what people are telling us generally is that they like our exams in English. I’m glad we took the time to determine that we should keep exams in English. We have received feedback that it’s a badge of honor in places like Asia, South America and Europe to be able to show employers or prospective employers that they’ve passed exams in business and technical English. However, we are looking at our syllabus and how we will incorporate more international developments and international regulations into our training.
Heidrich: We’ve provided local tax and regulation modules in Hong Kong in partnership with the Actuarial Society of Hong Kong, and in Taiwan in partnership with the Actuarial Institute of Chinese Taipei. We’re beginning to explore whether there are possibilities in other parts of Southeast Asia to do the same. We have a strong interest in building and maintaining our local relationships as productive and mutually beneficial for all. Our China Committee over the last three years has built a successful SOA China Symposium. We’ve gone from about 9% of our members in China participating in our professional development events to more than 39% participating last year. In the Greater Asia region, we’ve gone from about 5% to 15% of our members participating in professional development events, including the SOA Asia-Pacific Annual Symposium. What makes these events successful is that local members are designing what they want on these programs and organizing them locally.
Glickman: We also participate in the International Actuarial Association (IAA). As the largest component association within the IAA, the SOA has an important leadership responsibility to bring knowledge, stability and established practices to share with other IAA members. At the same time, our participation allows us to learn from other organizations around the world.
Lombardi: This year marks the IAA’s 20th anniversary. The IAA has an insurance accounting committee that tracks those developments. The IAA collects views from different organizations and attempts to speak with one voice for the actuarial profession—that’s the core reason for its existence. For example, groups are currently promulgating financial reporting standards for insurance internationally, IFRS 17.
Heidrich: We have an obligation to help make the global profession successful. A successful global actuarial profession benefits our members. It depends on collective action and a collective understanding among all those who do this work around the world. We are working to help the IAA make some changes to its governance and structure to be more effective in its activities on behalf of its members (the many actuarial organizations around the world). We think it’s very important to devote attention to this right now as leaders in this global profession.