The Changing Face of the Actuarial Profession

Two actuarial society presidents make history Stafford Thompson, Jr.


This past year, John W. Robinson, FSA, MAAA, FCA, and Roosevelt Mosley, FCAS, MAAA, were each elected to become president of professional actuarial societies—Robinson at the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and Mosley at the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). These elections are historic, as each will be the first Black actuary to lead these well-respected societies. As the actuarial community reflects on the significance of this moment, the presidential tenures of Robinson and Mosley are a cause for celebration, a chance for acceleration and a call to activation.

A Cause for Celebration

The actuarial profession is more than a century old, and the SOA and CAS both have been around for decades. In that time, diversification of the profession has been slow, including for Black students and professionals. From the early days, when social conditions did not allow for Black students to sit for actuarial exams, to present day, when lack of awareness of the profession and the ways in which companies assess actuarial talent still present challenges to hiring diverse candidates, Black actuaries have faced many obstacles.

Although Black professionals make up only 2.7% of the SOA and 1.5% of CAS membership, as self-reported, there has been progress. In 1952, Robert J. Randall, Sr. became the first fully certified Black actuary (FSA). Minority recruiting began in the 1970s;1 the SOA and CAS created a joint committee on minority recruiting, which today exists as the CAS and SOA Joint Committee for Inclusion, Equity and Diversity (JCIED), and in 1992, the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) was founded. The intent of both groups is driving diversity in the profession, and we’ve seen significant growth in the number of fully certified Black actuaries in the United States over the past 30 years, with 225+ today (up from just 25 in 1992). We also have seen Black actuaries rise to leadership positions such as vice president, treasurer and board members of professional actuarial societies. The elections of Robinson and Mosley to president of their respective actuarial societies represent a pinnacle moment in this journey and a clear cause for celebration.

Robinson and Mosley each have their own style of leadership and areas of expertise, but what has been a key similarity in their careers is they both have been visible leaders. The racial makeup of the membership of these societies makes it obvious that Robinson and Mosley could not have been elected solely by the Black population in each. Instead, we celebrate that they have been recognized for their qualifications, their capabilities as leaders and their impact on the profession.

A Chance for Acceleration

Being the first at something often brings outside pressure and expectations, and this accomplishment is no different. As Robinson and Mosley assume their leadership positions, there will be expectations from their Black colleagues and from the societies at large.

President-elects have three years to make an intentional impact and cement their legacies. I expect in their year as president-elect that they will share their vision for their impending presidency and their vision for the profession. As president, they will have the responsibility to execute the organizations’ existing strategic plans. This is exceptionally important because they will want future presidents to execute the tenets of the plan that they will add. The SOA’s Long-Term Growth Strategy includes a refined strategic framework and priorities for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Lastly, as immediate past president, they will have the opportunity to establish their legacy. During this time, it will be important that the positive additions they made to the profession and their vision for the profession are cemented into the strategic plan. In that way, the journeys of Robinson and Mosley will be no different than president-elects of the past.

Robinson and Mosley will, however, be in a unique position to accelerate the DEI vision and strategy for these two organizations. They have a chance to accelerate the vision because representation matters, accelerate the strategy because focus matters, and accelerate the results because of the fierce urgency of now. Not only will they have a chance to accelerate the DEI vision, but they also will have the chance to accelerate the educational agenda, impact and expansion of the profession. In doing so, they will solidify their legacies and ensure that the key aspects of their presidential tenures remain forever connected to the strategic vision of these societies. After all, they were elected by the masses.

A Call to Activation

Lastly, the elections of Robinson and Mosley are a call to activation, particularly for Black actuaries to use the full breadth of their membership in these societies. Their elections serve as a call to all actuaries to not linger in the shadows of our profession. It’s easy to view these societies as the organizations that test and certify actuaries and provide continuing education. The fact of the matter is that full membership in these societies offers far more than that, and Black actuaries should view these elections as a call to become more involved.

The actuarial profession can have real social impact, weighing in on topics ranging from health care and life insurance, to social security and the racial wealth gap, to the use of credit scores and marketing data. Actuaries have the qualifications and skills to assess these issues and, through these societies, suggest potential opportunities to affect them. Legislatures come to the societies for input, and the societies can serve as conduits for data and research. The profession does a good job of identifying how legislation could affect the general population, but there is an opportunity to be a voice for minority populations and the impact they will feel. These viewpoints deserve to be researched, heard and understood, and members of each society are in a unique position to contribute.

Finally, these elections are a call for Black actuaries to join committees and boards, participate in philanthropic endeavors and support the examination process. The elections are a call to envision future Black presidents for these societies. The first cannot be the only. Robinson and Mosley are groundbreaking, visionary leaders; they cannot just become footnotes in history. We need Black actuaries building on the foundation that’s been laid for them, so that future Black actuaries also may seek office and have an impact on these societies.

The elections of Robinson and Mosley are certainly a cause for celebration and recognition of this historic moment, but they represent much more. This is an inflection point and opportunity to push this profession to even greater heights through acceleration and activation.

Stafford Thompson, Jr., FSA, MAAA, is senior vice president of Life and Executive Benefits Business Management for Lincoln Financial Group. Thompson is a fellow of the Society of Actuaries, a member of the American Academy of Actuaries, a founding member and former president of the International Association of Black Actuaries and has been named one of the most influential Black executives in corporate America by Savoy Magazine. The views expressed in the enclosed article are those of the author and not necessarily those of any Lincoln Financial Group affiliate. Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name of Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates.

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