Break from Retirement Brings Fresh Challenges

After a long and successful career, CIA member Rob Brown has taken on a new challenge: becoming President-Elect of the International Actuarial Association (IAA).

The former professor at the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Waterloo was recently elected for the prestigious position and in 2014 will succeed Kurt Wolfsdorf as President.

Although Dr. Brown, FCIA, FSA, ACAS, Hon FIA, is retired, the coming year may keep him very busy. He said: "It is a privilege and an honour to be President-Elect, but it is also a responsibility. There are things that I want to do: the IAA has the capacity to build committees and rules and administration to the point that it could bog itself down, so I want it to be more nimble and able to react. There are issues like strategic planning and International Standards of Actuarial Practice coming down the pipe, and if we do not act carefully we could see ourselves on a path where it could take two to three years from the genesis of an idea to having a policy out to the world.

"We [IAA members] only meet every six months and there are things that do not work via e-mails or phone calls. Some matters require face to face meetings, but that doesn’t mean it should take six of our meetings to get things done. We now cover the world and we work really hard to make sure that we have representatives from every region on our committees. Asking them to get together more than every six months is not realistic. But we are putting together a process of approvals that will be critical. What we need is a lot more flexibility.

"The IAA is working hard to enhance the reputations of actuaries and the actuarial profession. We have been around long enough that we can change from being reactive to proactive. We can walk tall, and we can have more confidence; we have been around 15 years and we haven’t done anything that we need to regret."

But there may be challenges ahead, he added: "There is a natural tendency in actuarial people for analysis to lead to paralysis; give an actuary an inch and he or she will measure it. We tend to think of every problem that will come up before we take an action."

However, Prof. Brown—who has been a volunteer for 35 years and won extensive recognition for his writings on retirement issues—believes that his experience will help make his plans a success. He said: "I’ve been going to IAA meetings for 15 years, so I know the people, and I would like to think I have felt the pulse of the general membership so that there are not going to be any big surprises."

Being a member of the CIA might also give him an advantage. He said: "We punch well above our weight. We are seen as being very principled, and as being an organization that does put the public’s interest over its own. Many of the standards that are being developed internationally can be seen to have their foundations in Canada. We can be immensely proud."

His tenure as President will include being the presiding officer for the 30th International Congress of Actuaries in Washington, DC, in 2014. Brown said such exciting events, plus meetings with bodies like the World Bank and World Health Organization, gave him "great energy". He added: "It is good to work with people from around the world. They come from different backgrounds and cultures, and have grown up with different regulations. You grow to appreciate those differences, and when you get 10 to 12 such people to agree about a product you can be assured that it is of high quality.

"The past decade has been very exciting for actuaries. Take post-communist Europe: under communism, none of these countries had actuarial professions. Now they want and need actuaries. That has coincided with the growth of free markets in China, India and elsewhere, so there is now huge demand for actuaries.

"There are lots of emerging opportunities. Risk, and the ability to measure and manage it, is a great opportunity. Enterprise risk management is mushrooming around the world and the IAA is doing its very best to nurture that. The IAA has also helped take the Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst credential to a global level.

"The world is getting smaller, and multinational financial institutions rely on actuaries’ involvement at the highest level. Working internationally is really important And having an international professional presence is equally important."