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Strength Through Diversity

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By Jim Christie, FCIA

CIA President

As I travelled across Canada in my President-Elect year visiting many of the regional actuarial clubs, I could not help but be struck by Canada’s geographic diversity. I was even more impressed with the diversity of opinions within the Canadian actuarial community on virtually any issue. These opinions are often held very passionately and proponents on every side of a particular issue articulate their positions forcefully and eloquently. Reaching consensus can be difficult since each side believes its view is in the best interests of the Canadian actuarial profession. Nevertheless, I have been equally impressed by the genuine goodwill of all participants, the civil nature of the debate among actuaries, and the open-mindedness of the audience.

While we do not always reach consensus on an issue, the vigorous debate has generally made whatever solution is ultimately adopted an improved approach to the problem at hand. The diverse opinions on the best approach to any issue mean that adopting a solution takes considerable time and, despite all our collective best efforts, the solution is often not considered perfect.

During the last year I have had the pleasure of attending numerous meetings of the three councils, various committee and task force sessions, several special interest seminars, and occasional meetings of other actuarial bodies throughout the world, and I had dialogues with many regulators and legislators. I continue to be struck by how earnestly and diligently all of these groups approach the particular issues facing them.

While consensus in any decision-making process is valuable, sometimes outside circumstances require us to make choices more rapidly than consensus allows. At other times it is difficult to simply formulate the question in a manner that focuses debate so a solution can be crafted.

With this as background, the CIA Board spent a considerable portion of its September meeting trying to identify the issues on which the CIA should place its strategic focus in order to best harness our volunteer energies to produce results which will have the most impact on our profession in Canada. Following that meeting a task force of Board members reviewed the ideas discussed and identified three broad themes to help guide the Board through the next one to two years. These themes will be finalized at the November Board meeting. For now, I simply want to give the membership some idea of our thinking and harness the diversity of your opinions to help us consider these themes.

Theme 1: engage and attract CIA members. Our vision is that all actuaries practising in Canada will want to be CIA members and regard the CIA as their primary accreditation/professional body. To do this the Board needs to address several sub-themes, including encouraging more current members to actively participate in the CIA and finding appropriate avenues for them to volunteer within their personal interests and constraints; encouraging new actuarial candidates to bond with the Institute earlier in their careers; and attracting Canadian actuaries who are not currently enrolled in the CIA.

Theme 2: enhance the profile of the CIA with stakeholders. Our ambition is that the CIA is recognized broadly by the public and among key stakeholders as a significant contributor to public policy and dialogue. To do this the Board needs to resolve what should be the broad CIA vision in this arena. There are several potential—and occasionally conflicting—visions, including the following:
  • The objective and non-partisan advocate of the Canadian public interest on actuarial-related issues;
  • The voice of the actuarial profession in Canada;
  • The actuarial entity which is leading the eligibility, education, research and professional development in Canada;
  • The disciplinary body of the actuarial profession in Canada; and
  • A significant player on the international financial scene.
Whatever the goal(s) the Board adopts, I believe the CIA needs to raise its profile with its various external stakeholders by taking strong, constructive and balanced positions on issues of key interest to the Canadian public.

Theme 3: education. Our vision includes an optional or alternative path to become an FCIA through a standalone Canadian process, in addition to the traditional derived designation via Fellowship in the Society of Actuaries (SOA) or Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). I believe it is in the long-term best interests of the CIA to move to develop an independent education/qualification process and not rely solely on the SOA/CAS to provide primary actuarial education to Canadians. We already have a number of educational initiatives underway, though they are not necessarily part of a coordinated overall education strategy. Examples of current initiatives include the Practice Education Course, the new ACIA concept, the University Accreditation Program, funding research, special interest seminars, and CPD webinars.

The themes identified above should all be regarded as focusing the current 2010–2015 Strategic Plan, not replacing it. I welcome your thoughts and comments on these themes as the Board begins to prepare for its November meeting. These themes will help the Board decide which initiatives to encourage and so help focus our volunteer efforts in the coming year.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write me at president@actuaries.ca.

Jim Christie, FCIA, is President of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

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