Rewarding End to Varied Career

After a career of 40 years filled with opportunities and new experiences, former CIA President David Oakden is tackling a fresh challenge: retirement.

He has stepped away from full-time actuarial work, and recently said goodbye to his colleagues at the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), where he had spent the last seven years and served as managing director of the actuarial division.

Mr. Oakden said: "Retiring feels strange; every day you go into the office and suddenly you’re not doing that. I worked on many challenging assignments, and now I’m trying to keep my mind active. Actuaries talk a lot about retirement planning, and then your interest in it becomes more personal."

His involvement in actuarial science dates back to a summer job in 1967 while he was still attending university, where he earned a doctorate. Having started full-time work with Excelsior Life, he moved to a sister company, Aetna Casualty Company of Canada, in 1975 and started a property and casualty (P&C) career at a time when there were only four P&C actuaries employed in Canada.

He said: "P&C companies had never used actuaries, and when they started employing them they realised that understanding the data coming in would give them a competitive advantage—now the largest companies have more than 30 actuaries. I started in life insurance but moved to P&C as it was a new field and it was a chance to try out new ideas and build from the ground up. Working in life, I was a junior person, but I became the chief P&C actuary for my company. People today would never have that opportunity."

Retirement has focused Mr. Oakden’s attention on other areas of actuarial practice. "For instance, there are now new challenges in the pension area. People are cancelling defined benefit [DB] pensions and going to defined contribution [DC], so pension practitioners have to evolve. DB plans are vehicles that are needed; planning for retirement, even for somebody like myself who has worked in this profession, is difficult. If you are relying on insufficient investments, or a DC plan, you are probably not going to be putting enough money aside; if you have a DB plan, you end up getting a certain amount, which is easier to understand. I am concerned that a large number of Canadians will not have adequate income when they retire."

In 2000, he became President of the CIA, which he described as the highlight of his career: "I had a chance to participate in international discussions and steer the Institute. There were a lot of things to be done; I was President when we went from the old Council to the Board and introduced our three councils. I spent a lot of time trying to make things work correctly, and I was also involved in mutual recognition agreements with the British, Irish, and Australians."

Having spent most of his life at Towers Perrin (now Towers Watson), Mr. Oakden first retired at the age of 60. He said: "I had been consulting, which takes a physical toll, and I wanted something less demanding. But then I realized that I liked to do something meaningful, and I thought that at OSFI I would make a contribution and make a difference. It delivered beyond my expectations.

"In my first six years at OSFI I did traditional actuarial work but in my final year I concentrated on mortgage insurance, which was really interesting. It was very different from life or P&C insurance, as a lot of aspects of it were like banking. It was good experience, and broadened my horizons."

The 67-year-old, who is still partially involved in the profession thanks to "volunteering and a little bit of consulting", said: "I’m glad to be away but at the same time I’m missing the office, where I had a lot of friends. Up until a year ago I was the Canadian representative to the International Association of Insurance Supervisors. I did a lot of work following the financial crisis, and went to meetings all over the world.

"I can’t imagine having a better career than I’ve had, and working at OSFI was a very rewarding way in which to end it."