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First impressions of the actuarial profession

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By Michel C. Simard

As I write these words, I realize that it has already been three weeks since I took up my duties at the helm of the CIA Secretariat.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my warm regards to our members, volunteers and partners, and to tell those of you whom I have not yet had the chance to meet that I am eager to make your acquaintance.

It is with pride and enthusiasm that I look forward to working with you and the CIA’s dedicated staff to achieve the objectives of a profession known for its unique expertise, high quality standards and avowed willingness to see beyond risk.

I must tell you that until quite recently, my knowledge of your profession was limited to some dictionary and website definitions:

"Actuaries specialize in statistical application, mainly as it relates to calculating probabilities in financial and insurance operations. They are charged with producing and employing economic models aimed at predicting various changes in data: interest rates, GDP growth, changes in fertility/morbidity rates . . ."

But I instinctively realized that actuaries’ area of practice is extremely broad, and that at a time when most of our social programs are being called into question (sustainability of public pension plans and public health care, precarious state of defined benefit pension plans), your expertise and your commitment to promoting the public interest are not only necessary but essential to the discourse aimed at ensuring fair and informed decisions on these important issues.

Some of you will tell me that the actuarial profession is grossly misunderstood and that scores of Canadians are unaware of its very existence. Paradoxically, the problems stemming from population aging and the myriad changes in our industrial structure affect them directly.

For my part, I feel that recognition of Canada’s actuarial profession will go hand in hand with Canadians’ interest in these issues. So, if we’re ready to deliver the goods, not only by defining the risks but by clearly identifying possible solutions most likely to serve the public interest, the role of actuary in Canada will be afforded ample recognition, and for all the right reasons.

Meanwhile, I am working very hard to become familiar with the set of challenges that the CIA is dealing with, whether it be accreditation, Standards of Practice or continuing education, to only name a few. I still have numerous acronyms to memorize and concepts to learn. I am counting on your cooperation, and at times your indulgence, in order to hasten the learning process and to be able to make a significant contribution to the success of the CIA. Thank you in advance.

Michel C. Simard is Executive Director of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries Secretariat.


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