Expanding our Profession: Yes, but How?

By Jacques Lafrance, FCIA
President, CIA

The theme of expanding the actuarial profession is coming up more and more in our discussions, both within the Institute and in meetings with actuarial organizations from several countries. For example, the hot-button topic at our most recent meeting of the North American Actuarial Council (NAAC)* was a vision whereby a significant proportion of our members would be working in fields not limited to insurance and pension plans.

One of the driving forces behind these discussions is some pessimism surrounding our usual areas of practice. The general feeling is that these fields are shrinking or, at best, exhibiting lacklustre growth when it comes to employment for actuaries. That said, recent developments—such as tremendous advances in technology, easier access to large databases, and the increased interest in risk-related issues—could offer our profession opportunities to expand its reach.

What can we bring to employers in all sectors? A great deal indeed. I would like to point out, in this regard, the study carried out by the International Actuarial Association aimed at developing a value proposition for our profession. Here is an excerpt: Actuaries are equipped to help their clients (including employers) make informed choices and develop efficient solutions to safeguard their future in an ever-changing world. An actuary is a professional trained in evaluating the current financial implications of future contingent events.

A number of fields seem within reach. We can safely say that our skill set and training stand us in good stead to contribute to the success of the non-insurance financial sector, particularly banking. What’s more, our expertise in dynamic solvency testing and enterprise risk management (ERM) positions us well not only in this sector but in a number of others as well. Indeed, wise application of these concepts can enable business leaders to make more informed decisions with respect to financial management and the commercialization of their products.

The road to expanding our fields of practice will not necessarily be an easy one. Our education system will need to evolve to offer our new members the training they need to break into non-traditional fields of practice. The same will be true of the continuing professional development offered to our members. This will require a coordinated effort on the part of the Institute, our education partners, and universities offering an actuarial program.

We will also need to develop and implement a strategy aimed at better promoting actuaries’ talents and competencies to employers in a variety of sectors. Needless to say, we should begin by targeting the financial sector as a whole, since this is the sector that seems most easily within our reach. An increased presence on our part in the debates being waged in the public space and in the media will also help enhance the visibility of our profession.

A number of the Institute’s groups, including the Board, are pondering this question. One of the initiatives underway consists of learning what makes actuaries in other countries successful. For example, South Africa’s actuaries have become the professionals of choice in the financial sector as a whole. The Actuarial Society of South Africa is working with the Institute of Actuaries of Australia to develop a training and eligibility framework for the non-insurance financial sector. We are following this project closely.

If our profession is to increase its foothold in new areas, we must exhibit rigour, persistence and boldness. It is up to us to meet this challenge.

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

* The NAAC brings together leaders of actuarial organizations from Canada, Mexico and the United States to foster cooperation among member organizations. Expanding the actuarial profession figures among its objectives.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires