Volunteerism: The CIA’s Lifeblood

By Simon Curtis, FCIA, CIA President

This month’s (e)Bulletin has a number of articles about volunteerism, which is truly the lifeblood of the CIA and the actuarial profession in Canada. With a membership of over 4,000, and only one full-time actuary on staff at the CIA (soon to be two), the volunteer effort to staff the numerous councils, committees, and task forces run under the auspices of the CIA is huge. Currently over 440 members, representing around 11 percent of our membership, volunteer in some capacity with the CIA—and this is on top of volunteer efforts with other actuarial bodies our members are involved with, such as the Society of Actuaries, Casualty Actuarial Society, International Actuarial Association, and Actuarial Standards Board.

While this overall effort is impressive, it does mask some issues and concerns. A few members put in a disproportionately large amount of time, especially in taking leadership roles on key committees/councils or other bodies, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find individual members willing and able to put in the degree of effort required by these roles. Our structure has come to place significant reliance on certain roles requiring time commitments that are extremely hard for most individuals to contemplate. This is beginning to impact our ability to recruit individuals and candidates for key roles, including even the role of CIA President.

As well, as I covered in an earlier article during my term, the changing nature of the work environment, individual priorities, and societal values is, if anything, reducing the time and energy individuals are willing to invest in their professional volunteer activities. To counter this, the CIA leadership and Head Office have been very proactive in focusing on initiatives to encourage professional volunteering, especially targeting younger members, who have historically been under-represented in our committee structure. The challenges around some of the more time-intensive roles, such as key committee chairs, council chairs, and Board leadership positions, are something that the CIA Board is beginning to explore. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions.

I would, however, encourage all of you who are not involved in the CIA volunteer structure to become involved. While it is clearly in the Institute’s interest for you to volunteer, I passionately believe it is also in your own individual interests. As a professional, the challenge is always to do the right thing, not just what is permitted. The best way to learn how to do the right thing is to interact with your fellow professionals, and there is no better way to do that than volunteering. Almost any volunteer role will expose you to a wealth of individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, and will help you gain the independent perspective that is needed to be a professional. Furthermore, my own experience has been that the connections and contacts I made through volunteering have been hugely beneficial to me throughout my career, and I’m sure most volunteers would say the same thing.

So, for those of you who are volunteers, let me say thank you on behalf of the profession. For those of you who have not volunteered, please take the plunge and get involved—it will not only help the profession, but will also help you be a better professional.

Simon Curtis, FCIA, is President of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.