Introducing New REC Chair Keith Walter

Keith Walter

Keith Walter, a member of the Research Committee (ResCo) since 2015, has taken on the role of chair of the Research Executive Committee (REC), effective September 30, 2017. Faizel Alladina, who chaired the committee through a major restructuring will continue to play a past-chair role.

“Many thanks to Faizel who led the committee through a time of very significant change,” says Mr. Walter. “That change to a more forward-looking approach was very much under his leadership. The reorganization of the committee was his initiative.”

Formerly known as ResCo, the REC’s new structure is designed to help volunteers develop key partnerships to lead research relevant to the actuarial community and in support of general public issues, and to enhance the engagement of academics with related interests. For more details on the REC restructuring, see the summer 2017 REC newsletter.

During his 35-year career in the insurance industry, Mr. Walter worked outside of Canada for many years, so he was not active in the CIA during that time. After returning to Canada from Singapore in 2014 (where he volunteered for the Singapore Actuarial Society), he turned to volunteering with the CIA, becoming Chair of ResCo’s Group Life and Health Experience Subcommittee in 2015.

“As we went through the restructuring, I joined the REC,” he says. “I had agreed to be Vice-chair of ResCo, so becoming REC Chair when Faizel’s term ended was a natural evolution.”

Vision for the REC

Mr. Walter says his vision for the committee is consistent with the committee’s new focus: continue to improve the execution of research projects, further develop the infrastructure for research activity, and focus on forward-looking research.

“Improving the execution of research projects means making sure that research dollars are well spent and the results are a high level of excellence,” he says. The Institute commits 9.5 percent of net dues revenue to its research budget. “Tracking, delivery, and use of results are essential. It’s important that the results of these projects get embedded into the actuarial community—that they are used and have benefit.”

The committee continues to examine the CIA’s research activity infrastructure, particularly around experience studies. “How can we improve the support environment for research?” Mr. Walter asks. “Can we reuse data or collect it in a different way? Can we do things now that can make research an effective tool for the profession?”

Research is a strategic element of the CIA and for the actuary of the future, and the REC’s forward-looking approach can help.

“Research has always been an asset, but current projects can be more of a value/asset for the actuarial community,” he says. “A much greater percentage of our projects are really strategic and forward-thinking, as opposed to in the past. That work is a building block on which the future of our industry will be built.”

Current REC Activities

REC and its subcommittees are very active, managing a number of research projects to support the CIA and its members.

The first papers from the academic research grant program are in peer review. “It is exciting to see that the academic research grant program is starting to pay dividends,” he says. 

“We are also continuing to develop a good partnership with the SOA,” Mr. Walter says. At the recent SOA Annual Meeting, Sim Segal and CIA member Jill Knudsen presented on a joint CIA-SOA research paper that examines the implications of developing a chief risk officer position for countries.

At the same meeting, a joint CIA-SOA research paper on flood risk was discussed—a hot topic given severe weather events in the recent months.

Future Activities

A large item on the REC’s agenda is beginning the two-stage process to decide what research projects to fund next year. “We are working hard to get input and feedback to make sure we have a full deck of ideas,” he says. “Once we determine strategic topics and themes, we will go back and look for specific projects on those themes.” A key stage of the process is a face-to-face meeting in Toronto in February to put the research plan together. Watch this space for updates in 2018.

Consider Volunteering

The REC is a busy committee, always looking for volunteers. “The beauty of the structure now is that volunteer commitments can be relatively short-term,” Mr. Walter says. “The POG [project oversight group] structure means you’re not committing the rest of your life to a project.”

For Mr. Walter, volunteering is important, and not just for the usual reasons such as connecting with people, discovering new insights, and earning continuing professional development (CPD) hours.

“I’m a huge believer in lifelong learning. It’s important to keep challenging yourself to learn something new,” he says. “Life gets more and more interesting the more challenges you take on. Learning to adapt, evolve, and experience new challenges is fundamental to growth and to what you do. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling.”

If you are interested in volunteering for the REC, login to the CIA members' site, navigate to the Research Executive Committee page, and click on Are you interested in serving on this committee?.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires