Research Committee Undergoes Restructuring

Faizel Alladina, Research Committee Chair

By Bonnie Robinson

The Research Committee (ResCo) provides oversight on the planning, development and execution of CIA-sponsored research. With a budget of over $450,000 in 2016–2017, it has 15 members, nine of whom are chairs of ResCo’s nine practice area subcommittees. Over 65 additional volunteers serve on those subcommittees.

In September 2015, Faizel Alladina became Chair of ResCo. "One of the first things I did was survey the committee, including past members," he says. "I wanted to get the pulse of the effectiveness of ResCo." Research has always been an important part of the CIA’s operations, but Mr. Alladina has noticed a change over the past six years in the workload and type of research the committee has been involved with.

"In 2010, when I joined ResCo, it was more of an experience study committee," Mr. Alladina says. "We oversaw regular, yearly studies such as lapse rates, mortality updates, and so on." There were some one-time research projects, but these were less common. "This research was regular maintenance around providing important experience study updates for the membership; however, there is not usually a lot of change in them from year-to-year."

Mr. Alladina gives credit to current CIA President Dave Dickson, who, during his time as Chair of ResCo (2013–2015), increased overall research activity, added subcommittees to better represent practice areas, and strengthened the committee’s relationship with the CIA Board.

One-Time Research Projects

Mr. Alladina estimates that now almost three-quarters of the new projects ResCo oversees are one-time, non-recurring initiatives; these tend to align with the CIA’s strategic priorities, and many are focused on a specific emerging area of importance to the actuarial profession.

"ResCo has a mandate to be aligned with the Board and responsive to some of its initiatives," he explains. "Research is needed to participate effectively with public positions. Research allows for fact-based decision-making, rather than using intuition." The Board and ResCo also have a commitment to develop stronger ties with academics through ResCo’s Academic Research Committee and the Academic Research Grant Program.

Heavier Workload

One of the challenges facing the committee is the pressure on ResCo and its subcommittees, especially as chairs and vice-chairs had to take on a heavier workload. "It was clear that we had challenges around succession and workloads," Mr. Alladina says. "We formed a task force to study the issue and consider options for making improvements. There was a real danger we would no longer have a Research Committee if members lost interest in volunteering for leadership positions on it."

During a rigorous five-month process, the task force took on a very thoughtful review and evaluation, developing 12 guiding principles the committee could use to assess its current structure (and operations) and evaluate gaps. Some of these principles include the following:

The task force met with members of the Society of Actuaries (SOA), the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) to see how other organizations manage their research efforts, and looked at every opportunity to determine best practices for doing research. "The goal was to develop solutions that satisfy our 12 guiding principles," says Mr. Alladina.

Proposed Restructuring

At the September Board meeting, the Member Services Council (MSC) presented ResCo’s proposal for its restructuring. The restructuring proposal includes having a Research Executive Committee (REC) providing overall direction and thought leadership, an amalgamated Experience Study Subcommittee applying best practices and looking for synergies and opportunities for increased collaboration across all practice areas, and maintaining a separate Academic Research Subcommittee to continue to build partnerships with Canadian universities on research and education. Project oversight groups (POGs) would be created for each new research or experience study project, with defined responsibilities on managing the project. ResCo also proposed having increased CIA support in the form of a Head Office staff member responsible for research. The Board will hear the details of this proposal in early 2017.

"Implementing these changes should allow us to select the right people for these committees and projects," says Mr. Alladina. "Whether it is strategic planning and development or tactical research and peer reviews being done, work is aligned with the interest of the volunteer, and we will be able to draw on volunteers who might have an interest in a specific area. It should also reduce the burden on chairs and help with succession planning."

Mr. Alladina stresses that the committee or POG members are not the ones who are doing the research. "They are facilitating and overseeing work done by the researcher, to ensure that it gets done in a timely manner, with appropriate resources providing expertise and insights as the research progresses and ultimately goes through the approval process."

Going forward, the MSC should be able to implement many of the proposed changes to the ResCo structure. Mr. Alladina says the restructuring should not only result in a more engaged group of volunteers involved in research and doing the things the CIA wants to do, but it also provides a clearer pathway for a CIA member to follow to move through the CIA structure. "Serving on a POG or research subcommittee is a natural stepping stone to moving to the REC, MSC, and ultimately the Board," he says.

Bonnie Robinson is the English editor at the CIA Head Office.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires