A Fond Farewell to Kathy Spicer
For many of us, Kathy was the CAS. Her assistance with the work of so many of the CAS committees was invaluable. I am personally grateful for her help during my tenure with the Program Planning Committee.
Besides being a consummate professional, Kathy was also a genuinely kind person. When offered a chance for recognition near the time of her departure, Kathy demurred in favor of fading into the sunset. While that may have been her wish, I would have liked to say goodbye in different circumstances.
Best wishes, Kathy, for this CAS member will miss you very much.
Joseph A. Herbers, ACAS
VEE Discussion Continued
I vehemently disagree that the FCAS is being watered-down by the VEE requirements. Although Mr. Holmberg raises some good points regarding validating academic coursework ("Opinion: Why VEE May Have an Adverse Effect on the Fellowship Credential," AR November 2005), I am more concerned with the overall vision of the CAS. Because of the new VEE requirements, I strongly believe that travel time will actually increase (in addition to the predictable Y2K disaster!). FCAS now becomes 12 Exams—not nine! What happened to the reduction in the material? Although Exam 1 and 2 are now three and two hours respectively, I do not believe these changes reduce the amount of material. In fact, VEE appears to have increased the requirements.
In addition to the three VEE exams, candidates are still required to take nine exams to obtain FCAS. Furthermore, not only does the CAS require VEE for Applied Statistical Methods, but according to the 2006 Syllabus, statistics is also tested in Exam 3. Will someone from the CAS Education or Examination Committee please step forward and explain the purpose of these changes? Many candidates after Y2K skipped Exams 3 and 4. Now they have to return to take these exams, yet the CAS is still making changes. It is becoming really difficult, even for an active candidate, to keep track of all of these changes. Even on the upper-level exams, a candidate may literally spend 15 to 20 hours on one paper just to have it removed from the syllabus the following year, along with several other papers, while new and different material is added. What a waste of time and energy!
Because of the VEE requirements, I had to waste many hours of my time fighting to get approval for a course I took 13 years ago from a now-retired professor. Ironically, it might have been easier to take the VEE exam administered by the CAS. This is because the VEE committee would not accept a copy of my college syllabus—even though the requirement for VEE-Applied Statistical Methods states that the "level of mathematical sophistication of these courses will vary widely and all levels are intended to be acceptable." Although my college syllabus clearly states that it covered all of the topics, I had to track down my retired professor and have him write a letter. Not only did my professor cover all of the topics in one course, but Professor Bolch was a Robert McCallum Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Rhodes College. Before Rhodes, he was Professor and Chairman of the Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University. Professor Bolch has also published in journals such as Journal of American Statistical Association and Review of Economics and Statistics. One may ponder, is that good enough? I would argue that a C- from my college is sufficient to pass the acid test.
Luckily, I received a B+ in this course at Rhodes College and received VEE credit. However, if I had received a 79% in the class (the equivalent of a C+) I would not have credit right now. What a headache. To top it off, my company had to pay $50 out of their pocket. That is crazy! Why should we have to pay anything? The VEE Administration should pay me. Instead of wasting my time on this, I could be helping the CAS rewrite some of those papers written in the 1970s.
All of these constant changes indicate that something is wrong with the CAS. You should be grateful if you received your FCAS prior to Y2K. I have yet to meet a Fellow who even knows what is on the current syllabus (other than those active in the CAS). The bottom line is that the syllabus should NOT be a moving target. The output of my regression analysis indicates a clear trend. I predict by the year 2010, the requirements for FCAS will be the following: 65 years of "significant" work experience, 100 twelve-hour exams, J.D., MBA, CPA, and P.E. (Professional Engineer, not Physical Education—although some of us could use a little exercise). In addition, if you want to hold office, you must have a gun license and 10 years of self-study in the "art of shooting yourself in the foot."
Lastly, when I finally achieve Fellowship, climb Mount Everest, and run a marathon in every state, I intend to rewrite Arthur Miller's 1949 classic Death of a Salesman and change the title to Casualty of an Actuary.
Bill Myers, CPCU, ARe
Randall Holmberg identifies a potential problem with VEE. The risk is understood and easily mitigated. The adverse outcome would arise if actuaries were to be validated for mastery of a subject based on VEE credit. Fortunately, this is not the case. VEE is used to prepare candidates for their studies of the material on later exams. Mastery of the learning objectives on the later exams can be validated at that time. A weak college course may make it more difficult for the candidate to master the material on the exams, but does not have to make it more difficult for the CAS to validate that mastery.
Oakley E. (Lee) Van Slyke, FCAS
The VEE Administration Committee Responds to Holmberg's Opinion
The VEE Administration Committee (VEEAC) offers clarifications on issues raised in Randall Holmberg's opinion column in the November 2005 issue of The Actuarial Review. The committee's response follows.
The first paragraph of the column seems to have missed the objectives of VEE. The VEE requirements were not introduced to certify that candidates have "mastered" certain "actuarial" topics. The VEE topics are general topics related to the work of an actuary. The topics selected for VEE were seen as important, but not crucial for testing. They include applied statistics, which most would agree is poorly evaluated by a multiple-choice exam; and corporate finance and economics, topics that are foundational to material on later exams.
Of course, Mr. Holmberg is correct that VEE does not validate that a person is qualified to practice as an actuary. That is why the Societies have a complete education program, including VEE, examinations, continuing education, and a presumption of on-the-job experience.
Mr. Holmberg is correct that detailed oversight of the vast array of college courses is nearly impossible. The system must rely on the integrity of educational institutions and their accrediting agencies. For nonaccredited providers the VEEAC must provide more scrutiny. If this leaves one uncomfortable, remember that the VEE topics are primarily for background and more advanced aspects are later validated by examination.
The majority of VEE providers are accredited academic institutions. For organizations that are not accredited, the VEEAC serves the accreditation role for VEE courses. We take this assignment seriously and we welcome any comments on the quality of the educational experience provided by nonaccredited organizations.
In conclusion, we support the call for practicing members to be informed about VEE. However, keep in mind that not everything that is important is testable and that not everything that is testable is important.
The VEE Administration Committee
Kevin J. Shand, Chairperson
David R. Chernick
Bryan V. Hearsey
Glenn G. Meyers
Beda Chan, Liaison for Asia
The VEEAC is composed of member representatives from The Canadian Institute of Actuaries, The Casualty Actuarial Society, and The Society of Actuaries.
Personal Property and Human Rights
I just read Stephen P. D'Arcy's president's column ("From the President: The CAS as an Instrument of Peace and Prosperity," AR November 2005). You may be interested in the perspective of Ed Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer of industrial landscapes (an unusual form of art!) whose exhibit documenting China's new industrial sites is now touring. To D'Arcy's points about peace and prosperity, Burtynsky would add democracy and the recognition of human rights.
He argues that a market for insurance arises when the right to private property is first recognized. The development of the mechanisms that protect this human right then leads to the protection of other human rights.
Here's an excerpt from an interview of Burtynsky published in The Globe and Mail newspaper on October 19, 2005.
Democracy [in China] may ultimately spring from a … less [than] obvious source. "I was in Wuhan back in 2002," Burtynsky remembers, "when I saw the first billboard there advertising an insurance company." The sight of it came as a shock. "I asked the guide who was with me how long these companies had existed in China and he said 'Only a few years.' "Now," Burtynsky says, "These billboards are everywhere."
"The rise of the insurance industry in China is a result of the sudden and growing need to protect private property, and the rights of the owner," he continues. "With this, you get the rise of a class of lawyers who are paid to interpret the work of the insurance industry, to protect those personal rights. Eventually, the idea of protecting human rights will flow from this defence of personal property rights," he says. "It's not going to come from some edict at the UN."
Craig A. Allen, FCAS, FCIA