Practice Council has Strategic Role to Play

By Bruce Langstroth, FCIA

When talk turns to strategic direction, vision, long-term goals and objectives, and related topics, the Practice Council is not the first thing that comes to mind. The council’s mandate seems much more fundamental—it produces guidance material to help practitioners in their day-to-day work. That doesn’t sound very strategic.

This is not to say that the work of the Practice Council is not important. The council oversees the production of guidance material that defines and narrows actuarial practice within our Standards of Practice. One may certainly view this as having a strategic dimension—the public and other stakeholders benefit from the quality of practice within Canada and the work of the Practice Council supports quality of practice. However, while its work is important, it’s sometimes hard to get your head around how it is strategic.

In 2012–2013, the Board embraced a set of long-term strategic goals. Included in these goals is the aspiration that being a member of the CIA is regarded as essential for all actuaries practising in Canada. While this goal has many potential dimensions, it seems clear that the Practice Council supports it. Membership in the CIA will have less value to practitioners if the guidance material is not useful to them.

Another goal is: "Building on their extensive role in existing practice areas, CIA members are viewed as key contributors in non-traditional fields such as health care and banking." New areas of practice will need to be supported by guidance material, if not standards.

The Practice Council also plays a strategic role in supporting the profession’s public image. Among other things, the Canadian profession can boast of the quality of practitioners, anchored in the Standards of Practice and supporting guidance material. This foundation enables the profession to provide services that meet the public’s expectations.

As we look to the new year, there are a couple of themes that emerge from a strategic perspective:
  1. Ensuring that practitioners are supported by a robust set of guidance material; and
  2. Ensuring that public expectations are met by harmonized approaches across practice areas.
Many practice areas, the traditional ones in particular, are well supported by comprehensive and robust guidance material. Pension and life insurance practitioners, in particular, are very well supported in this regard. Other practice areas, whether small (such as actuarial evidence) or emerging (such as enterprise risk management), are less well served. The Practice Council will be turning more attention to these under-served areas in the coming year.

It is reasonable to assume that the public expects that practice will differ where it makes sense to differ, and will not differ where there is no basis for that difference. Differences in practice that exist because of fundamental differences in the obligations under consideration may make sense, while those that exist solely because of differences in the evolution of practice areas may not. The Practice Council will be turning attention to harmonization of practice (or rationalization of differences) in the new year, acknowledging that some matters may ultimately be a standards question that belongs with the Actuarial Standards Board.

In closing, it is all too easy to forget the Practice Council when thinking about the CIA’s strategic direction. After this discussion, I hope that you, like me, view the council’s activities in a more strategic way.

Bruce Langstroth, FCIA, is Chair of the Practice Council.