Actuaries Must Speak Their Minds


By Jacques Lafrance, FCIA
CIA President

Believe it or not, the public can find actuaries interesting, despite their reputation as introverts focused on technicalities. Some of our members maintain a regular media presence, demonstrating that the ability to present relevant, informed, and easily-understood viewpoints is not incompatible with the actuarial profession.

It behooves members of the profession to express opinions on certain burning issues of the day. Thanks to their expertise and experience, actuaries are well positioned to influence policy-makers and the public in the search for practical, sensible solutions to important issues, such as the cost of health care plans, maintaining public confidence in financial institutions, and placing the future of pension plans on a secure footing.

Our profession deserves a higher profile, and it is in our interest that people learn more about us. We need to take targeted actions to ensure that actuaries’ talents and abilities are better understood by the public, and in particular by decision-makers and potential users of our services. Greater recognition of our skills is key if our profession is to gain a foothold in non-traditional fields and expand our enterprise risk management activities.

For the actuarial profession to gain the profile it seeks, the Institute must develop and implement an effective communications and public relations strategy. If we are to be successful, we must show that we are open to and in tune with opinions expressed in all quarters, while putting into practice the scientific rigour for which our profession is known.

Now, it may well be that implementing such a strategy will require a greater effort on the Institute’s part, including greater use of our most valuable resource: our volunteers. But what is required above all is a readiness to jump on the chance to express our opinions when the opportunities present themselves. A case in point: the Institute publishes a number of documents aimed primarily at helping our membership provide quality services. The observations, findings, or advice contained in many of these documents might also interest the public or influence decision-makers. With relatively little extra effort, we can synthesize this information and express it in plain language, so as to attract the attention of the public, decision-makers, and the media and thus provide them with value added.

I am pleased to see that a growing number of our research projects (Institute "exclusives" or collaborations with other organizations) are aimed primarily at helping us develop better-informed public position statements or offer our expertise in the search for solutions to issues of public interest. We must continue down this path.

To be sure, the Institute can and must assume a greater role in making public pronouncements on behalf of the profession. To that end, I invite you to contribute to Institute activities. But I also urge you to plunge right into public debates on a personal basis.

So let’s hope we see more actuaries or the CIA express their opinions and add their two cents through the various media outlets. Let’s speak our minds!

Jacques Lafrance, FCIA, is President of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.


Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires