On the Road to…
By John Kollar
One of the key functions of the president, and to a lesser extent the president-elect, is representing the CAS at the senior level with counterparts at other actuarial organizations. This can involve substantial travel, and phone calls at odd hours. From an ERM perspective, international travel can involve risk as well as opportunity. Frequently there is the challenge that arises from different languages, food, and culture. While English may be the international language of business, it may be necessary to listen very carefully to people who make a great effort to speak English as their second or third language. My speaking slowly can also improve communication. Hand gestures can be helpful, but they can have very different meanings in different cultures.
The CAS international leadership has recognized the need to sensitize our international representatives to cultural differences in many countries. Coming from North America introduces many other complexities into international relationships. Perceptions of national/personal wealth, economic power, etc. will sometimes cause people to have unfair preconceived notions about us. Flexibility, patience, and humor can generally win over most people. One compliment that I valued was, “You’re not bad for a gringo.”
IAA Meeting in Dublin, Ireland (October 2007)
The IAA (International Association of Actuaries) is an association of actuarial associations. It can be viewed as the United Nations of actuaries.
There was a lot of buzz about a $5 million donation to foster actuarial education in underdeveloped nations. Unfortunately the funding has not yet materialized due to downturn in the world economy. While many other issues were addressed at the meeting, arguably the most important was the adoption of a Statement of Intent to establish a global ERM qualification. This actually occurred at the Presidents’ Forum, which is technically not part of the IAA. The Forum provides an arena for presidents of organizations to address various issues that are generally not part of the IAA agenda.
Presidents of six organizations signed the statement at the Forum with the CAS president-elect and SOA president signing that they would seek the support of their organizations. This marked the official starting point of the quest for a global actuarial ERM designation.
IAA, CAS, CIA, SOA Meetings in Quebec City (June 2008)
The morning part of the Presidents’ Forum focused on UN-like issues. Each member association would be entitled to one seat at the inner table. In addition, each member association would be entitled to two seats at the outer (non-voting) table. The Presidents’ Forum devoted the afternoon to discussing a global ERM designation making it all worthwhile. I somehow became chair of the task force that would be responsible for developing the agenda for the next Forum meeting.
IAA Meeting in Limassol, Cyprus, with London Stopovers (November 2008)
In London I was able to meet with some of the leaders and staff on the U.K. actuarial profession (UKAP, i.e., the Institute of Actuaries and the Faculty of Actuaries). I also had some subsequent meetings with general insurance actuaries. The focus of the discussions was on how the CAS and the UKAP could grow our relationship and partner on areas of joint interest. For example, the CAS could work with UKAP actuaries on research projects to help satisfy research needs for all three of the organizations. Also the joint administration of professionalism courses in other countries could spread the cost over several actuarial organizations.
I actually met the two UKAP presidents in Cyprus at the IAA meeting. (The two UKAP organizations, Institute and Faculty, are voting on a possible merger with the outcome to be determined by the time this article is published.)
The IAA decided to issue statements in a number of countries regarding the global financial crisis. These statements would promote the role of actuaries in dealing with risk. The financial crisis statements neatly complemented the discussions on ERM. There were three special meetings on ERM in addition to the discussions at various committees and the Presidents’ Forum.
I managed to survive my presentations at the Presidents’ Forum between bouts of coughing and came home with bronchitis.
Australian Biennial Meeting (April 2009)
As leading proponents of a global actuarial ERM designation, the leadership of the Institute of Actuaries of Australia were interested in CAS and SOA ERM developments. There were many ERM discussions involving representatives of the Institute, the SOA, and the CAS during and around the meeting.
The Institute’s Biennial meeting, which was relocated before the meeting from Perth to Sydney, was well attended with many excellent sessions. Sponsors were recognized many times during opening remarks before plenary sessions with banners next to the podium highlighting their support.
IAA Meeting in Tallinn, Estonia (May 2009)
Each day brought another non-agenda global ERM designation meeting. This was in addition to the scheduled ERM meetings that tied into the global financial crisis. While the treaty was not finalized at the meeting, there were only a few remaining points to address.
The IAA has done excellent work in advancing the profession globally. Some of the major initiatives include:
- support the establishment and qualification of new actuarial organizations
- establish minimum educational requirements
- recognize organizations when they satisfy educational requirements
- provide model international actuarial practice standards
- pursue supranational relationships (i.e., relationships with other international bodies, such as the World Bank)
- advocate continuing professional development
I think I’ll remain in North America for a while.