What Now?by Robert A. Anker
In the last issue of the Actuarial Review, I discussed some of the issues surrounding the new publication of the SOA, The North American Actuarial Journal. I concluded by suggesting we would come to better relationships with the SOA through a position of strength, which the CAS expresses through the strategic plan.
In the same issue of the Actuarial Review, a letter written to the CAS Board by Sholom Feldblum and an editorial by Stan Khury also appeared on related subjects. The three pieces strongly affected the SOA Board. As a result, Dave Holland, President of the SOA, wrote to his membership and submitted the same letter to the editor of the AR. We clearly have a serious organizational strain between the CAS and the SOA. Mavis Walters' article "What is Independence?" in this issue of the Actuarial Review provides some additional background and superb perspective in the context of one of the key elements raised in the strategic plan.
I would like to provide some additional thoughts tied to our strategic plan. The plan identifies the expectation for the CAS to be a significant contributor to the worldwide actuarial profession. This, in my opinion, is another ingredient of the mix defining what it means for the CAS to be independent. There are some who do not see the balance in the plan, but rather focus on the fact that the CAS chose to identify itself as an "independent" organization of professionals. While this represents the first time the CAS has used the word "independent" in any official document describing itself (at least to my knowledge), there is certainly nothing new to the concept of the CAS being an independent body. We have always been an independent organization filled with independent individuals. We have always thought independently. We have always talked independently and we have always acted independently. And, we have done all of that in the context of continuing greater cooperation with all other actuarial organizations, including the SOA. The strategic plan is merely an articulate description of who we are and what we believe, not a change in fundamentals.
The CAS Long Range Planning Committee this year, apparently with the gift of prophecy, identified defining independence and its consequences as one of two important issues for the CAS to address.
The second issue identified was dealing with the consequences of growth. The dominant concern about the consequences of growth is the risk of loss by the CAS of our heavy membership involvement and of the sense of commitment to the organization that involvement both represents and fosters. It is worth repeating that volunteerism is the keystone to our organizational character. Another relevant consequence of growth is the incredible boom in international work involving CAS members over the last few years. One piece of evidence: there are today more members of the CAS practicing outside the United States than there were Fellows when I became a member. We are clearly not serving our non-U.S. membership with the same level of service we provided Fellows when I first joined. While simple logistics makes it very difficult to do so, I believe we need to do significantly better in serving that portion of our membership. It is another of the consequences of growth.
Finally, key to the strength of the CAS over the years, as well as key to the current misunderstandings between the CAS and the SOA, is the fact that the Actuarial Review has never been an "official" voice of the Board or leadership of the CAS. Most of us in the CAS understand that, I believe, and look elsewhere for official statements of the Board of Directors or leadership. However, not unreasonably, outsiders tend to expect that the editorial column in our "official" publication would represent the policy of the Board of Directors. Should it? This is a subject with some inherent contention built into it.
It seems to me that our particular version of freedom of the press, call it freedom of the Review, is well worth saving. I believe it is a major ingredient to the confidence that the members of the CAS have in the organization. Our willingness to "let it all hang out" guided only by the boundaries of professionalism and good taste, allows each of us the freedom to communicate frankly with one another on those subjects about which we both agree and disagree.
However, I also believe we need to find a way to make it clearer that the Actuarial Review is not a source of official policy of the Board. We also may need to institutionalize the current peer review process to assure that the AR can sustain its capability to be an open forum of observation and commentary. In this, as in all things, we have an obligation to try to avoid misunderstanding. Good relationships only come from strength.