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Program Will Strengthen Relationships

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By Simon Curtis, FCIA
CIA President

One of the ancillary benefits of the Institute’s work to implement the University Accreditation Program (UAP), which allows university course-based credits for certain of the core technical professional exams, is that it has significantly increased the level of engagement and interaction between the Institute and Canada’s actuarial academic community.

One of the greatest strengths of the profession in Canada is the existence of over a dozen strong university actuarial programs from Vancouver to Québec City. Nearly all of us in the profession in Canada are familiar with these programs as most of us are graduates of one of them. Many of these programs have a strong reputation internationally and attract students from around the world. Despite this, the level of engagement between the CIA and the universities and academics who teach actuarial science has historically been relatively low. The recent increased interaction gives us a chance to correct this and leverage our university/academic relationships in a number of areas: education, research, broadening the profession, and increasing the contact with younger members of the profession.

In the education field, we have 10 universities accredited for the UAP program, with a strong possibility of one or two additional schools in the future. The number of Institute members involved with and/or teaching courses within these programs is increasing as universities meet the criteria established by the CIA for accreditation. This increased involvement at the university level, along with the recent introduction of the ACIA professional designation, should allow the CIA to become much more engaged with students just beginning their actuarial careers, which is a key goal of the CIA. As well, this increased engagement will hopefully lead to increased focus within the university programs on skill gaps that we see in students entering the profession today—communication skills being an often-cited example.

In the research field the academic community is unquestionably a strong partner. A number of the best public policy papers and papers on topics of interest to actuaries in Canada have come out of the academic environment in recent years. Universities, with their focus on research, are well equipped to partner with us, where our own resources are more constrained given our limited staff and the volunteer structure. Being more active in research with the aim of building the profile of the actuarial profession in Canada and contributing to public policy has again been identified as a priority for the Institute.

Increased involvement with universities is also a key tool for us to broaden the profession in Canada, both in terms of the types of work actuaries are equipped to perform and the breadth of fields in which actuaries work. Universities provide an excellent platform to develop skills for many of the more advanced quantitative techniques that actuaries will need going forward to compete with or work with other professionals who have these skillsets, such as financial engineers with advanced degrees in mathematical finance. As well, the university environment is an excellent "hot house" to encourage younger actuaries entering the profession to enter non-traditional practice areas and expand the profession’s scope—something that is much more difficult to achieve with established professionals.

To further develop and add momentum to the academic relationship, the CIA Eligibility and Education Council has recently created a Committee on Academic Relations. I am very excited about the potential for this committee and the Institute to continue to develop the relationship with academia over the next few years.

 Simon Curtis, FCIA, is President of the CIA.    

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