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From the President

Think Small!

by Robert F. Conger

In this day and age, bigger seems to be perceived as better. Companies acquire and merge with other companies to create mega-organizations. Retailers seek to be the largest in their market. Trade journals list the top companies by size. Growth is one of the key financial measures by which success is evaluated.

Supply and demand factors—not growth for growth's sake—indicate that the CAS will, and must, continue to grow as well. On the demand side, the North American insurance and reinsurance industry and its supporting bureaus and consulting firms, which collectively employ the vast majority of our members today, appear to have a healthy appetite for more actuaries at virtually all levels. And there are opportunities for us to develop additional actuarial roles, both inside the financial services industry and in other industries that are challenged by business risk (that is, all industries).

We hear calls for us to grow our membership around the world. Prudent regulators and insurance businesses in various countries, particularly those with emerging economies and newly developing insurance industries, are demanding people with the types of knowledge, expertise, and capabilities that a CAS education instills.

On the supply side, universities and their graduates are showing a lively interest in the actuarial profession. Many numerically skilled individuals were attracted to the technology industries in the late 1990's, and financially oriented job opportunities of all sorts will continue to attract these people. But the CAS, CIA, and SOA are seeing a very strong growth in the numbers of candidates signing up for the early exams. People are realizing the benefits of a stable, challenging, rewarding career in a long-standing industry that faces some interesting and significant challenges and opportunities. In May 2002, for example, the number of candidates for Exams 1 and 2 increased by 39 percent and 21 percent, respectively, from one year earlier.

All of this is good and healthy for our profession, and we must do our part to assure that both supply and demand remain strong, and that both sides of the supply-demand equation are having their needs met.

The view at a personal level through the eyes of an individual member may be a bit different, however. I was chatting with one of the new Fellows at the San Diego meeting this May as we entered the reception the first evening. He looked at the crowd with a bit of trepidation, and confessed his concern about getting to know everyone.

The answer, of course, is that you don't start out by trying to know everyone. The way to make the CAS your own is to start with a small, bite-size piece of the organization. Become active in one committee, a task force, or your local Regional Affiliate. We have opportunities and needs for members in all sorts of roles, with a call for varying levels of time commitment, travel, and activity types. This includes, of course, the Exam Committee, but also various program-planning functions, publications, research, and outreach activities. Likewise, the Regional Affiliates rely entirely on their volunteer members to conduct all of their activities.

The key word in the preceding paragraph is "active." Perhaps you will start your next CAS volunteer role out of a sense of duty, or because someone recruits you to help out. These are fine reasons to get started. Based on the experience of hundreds of volunteers who have come before, if you take on a volunteer task as an active participant, you will find that you gain more than you put into it. You will be shaping and influencing that part of the CAS. You will be creating opportunities for yourself to get involved in other parts of the organization. You will be getting to know some terrific people, people you will be happy to count as your business acquaintances and friends. They, in turn, will introduce you to their business associates and friends and you will find that the CAS becomes "we" rather than "they."