Ask Me Anything


By Dave Dickson, FCIA
CIA President

I recently installed Windows 10 on my computer and it has a feature called "Ask Me Anything" that allows users to talk to their computer and receive responses for almost any question. During my year as President-elect and part year as President, members have asked me numerous questions about those roles and the Institute itself. I thought an article answering some of those questions might be of interest. If you like the article and have additional questions, please send them along and I may do a repeat.

Q. With your new responsibilities how did you like moving to Ottawa and your office at the CIA Head Office?

A. I’m still living in Oakville and don’t have an office in Ottawa. I do visit Head Office periodically, but Presidents don’t move to Ottawa.

Q. How much salary do you get from the CIA?

A. The job is great but doesn’t pay very well since it’s a volunteer role. Salary zero.

Q. How much time do the roles of President-elect and President require?

A.This is the most common question I get. I estimate that for me it’s about a half-time job. But different Presidents have spent different amounts of time. In the last while we have had Presidents who maintained their full-time jobs. One told me his billing hours did not change, but he was spending more weekend time on work. So it does vary. I’m retired, so I have more free time than other Presidents we have had.

We do have an initiative to reduce the workload of the President, to make it easier for those who are working to take on the role. As an example, we routinely attend annual meetings of the three major U.S. actuarial organizations and in the past sometimes sent numerous representatives. This year we are sending just one of the three Presidents (President, Immediate Past President, and President-elect) to each meeting.

Q. Why did you run for President?

A. I’ve filled almost every other volunteer role and often thought about being President of the CIA but never pursued it. The year I ran, I had been approached by a few friends who suggested I do so. That year there were three candidates and I initially didn’t like the idea of campaigning and maybe losing. But I enjoyed contacting people within the CIA looking for votes. I touched base with people I hadn’t talked to for awhile and still need to set up a lunch or visit with them. Also, I worked with a number of past CIA Presidents and always admired them and am pleased to be in their company.

Q. What about the General List?

A. In my role I now read all the General List e-mails. When I started reading them all, there were a number of negative comments and my initial reaction was that we should get rid of it. But I changed my mind. The General List was first introduced to allow professional discussion among CIA members and such discussion is often the case, with good conversations about important topics. Negative comments do occur but I think they have lessened over the last couple of years. We are doing a better job encouraging polite discourse, and I think that helps. I also believe that it’s healthy to have disagreement and debate. If you are one of those members who withdrew from the list, I suggest you consider rejoining.

Q. What do you like best about the job?

A. I enjoy all parts of the job. My favourite, though, is representing the CIA when meeting with members, such as when presenting to Actuarial Clubs, and also when meeting with other actuarial organizations. I just returned from the North American Actuarial Council (NAAC) meetings in Montréal. Nine actuarial organizations attend: five U.S., three Mexican, and the CIA. In a few weeks I’ll be heading to the International Actuarial Association (IAA) meeting in Cape Town; I enjoy meeting with actuaries from all over the world. One of the first people I met at a previous IAA meeting was a woman who had been consulting in Central Africa for the last 20 years and I had a very interesting lunch with her.

Q. What does the President do and how does the role work with our Executive Director?

A. This is a good question. It took me awhile to understand this as well. It’s important to realize that the CIA Board makes important decisions for the CIA. Michel Simard, our Executive Director, reports to the Board and takes his directions from them. As President, I chair the Board meetings and work with Michel, President-elect Sharon Giffen, Immediate Past President Rob Stapleford, Secretary-Treasurer John Dark, and others to implement the Board’s decisions. I spend a lot of time talking to Michel about how we are going to do that. Michel then works with his staff, CIA leadership, and CIA volunteers to get things done. I also work directly with staff and volunteers on certain initiatives.

Q. Where do we stand with the management of the CIA’s public statement process?

A. Currently, the Public Positions Committee releases public positions in accordance with the Policy on the Approval of Public Positions. This policy is governed by Bylaws 19.01 and 19.02.

In the past year, the CIA has heard input from membership on two fronts:

The Board agreed that greater member input on many topics is highly desirable, especially those that may be controversial. We also want to engage the CIA membership in the process to develop public policy input and to better align CIA research with the development of our public statements. A membership consultation is currently underway.

Q. Name the three biggest challenges or opportunities for the CIA.

A. Our three biggest challenges are also excellent opportunities for the CIA to become a stronger, more effective organization:

  1. The first is our corporate restructuring project. With the assistance of a consultant, we are taking an approach as if the CIA structure did not exist already and how we would build it from scratch. The process will be both a top-down and bottom-up approach, as we plan to involve staff and volunteers. It will result in a more efficient CIA and also better volunteer opportunities. At our recent Board meeting in September, the Board heard the consultant’s recommendations. We are doing some work with them and will bring a plan to the next Board meeting on December 8. This project will take a few years to complete but is very important for the future success of our organization.
  2. We have started a project to improve our communications and member engagement. This project is being led by two of our communication professionals, Les Dandridge (director, communications and public affairs) and Pascale Belleau (associate director, public affairs). For the first time, we have measured member engagement using factors such as serving on committees, attending meetings, voting, and so on. We now have a better picture of how well our members are engaged which helps us to focus our efforts on areas to improve. We also feel our communications can be better. Results from our recent communications survey of members should help us to better serve members by delivering the kind of communication materials they want to receive, in their preferred format.
  3. We have set up a new Volunteer Management and Development Committee chaired by Claire Bilodeau, with the mandate of better managing our volunteers. The committee plans to address such issues as how to get younger members more involved, creating volunteer positions on committees, filling volunteer positions, and creating a volunteer career path for interested volunteers. Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization and if we can improve their experience and how they are managed the CIA will be even greater.

That’s it for now. If you have any questions, contact me at I am happy to answer your questions, and we may even address some in a future article.

Dave Dickson, FCIA, is President of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires