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New VP-International Takes on Global Actuarial Issues

by J. Michael Boa

The CAS Board of Directors voted during its September 12-13 meeting to elect John C. Narvell as vice president-international (see story, page 1). I recently asked Narvell his views on the most pressing issues facing the CAS in the international arena.

Boa: Describe your experience and background in international work both professionally and for the CAS.

Narvell: Having sat for (and passed!) my last four exams while working in Belgium (1982-85), I could say my international experience with the CAS began as a student in 1982. Immediately after Fellowship in 1985, I moved to Bermuda for four years where I worked as a consulting actuary. Interestingly, when I arrived in Bermuda there were only five CAS members there; today there are more than 50. In late 1989 I returned to the U.S. where I was based in Philadelphia but with consulting clients in Denmark, France, Switzerland, and the U.K., I recently spent four years in Zurich building an actuarial team as chief actuary for a Swiss insurance company. And about a year ago I relocated to London, continuing in my existing position, after my employer was acquired by a Bermudian insurer.

For several years while in Philadelphia, I worked on the Syllabus Committee. I have also served as the president of Casualty Actuaries of Europe. For the past two years, I have acted as the CAS representative to the General Insurance Research Organising Committee (GIRO) in the U.K. In addition, I am actively involved in developing CAS support for actuarial seminars in India, having recently represented the CAS at a meeting sponsored by the Institute of Actuaries of India. While there I presented (in conjunction with Madan Mittal) a two-day introductory seminar on casualty practice in Mumbai.

Boa: What is the importance of international issues to the CAS?

Narvell: The CAS is not a purely American organization. We officially qualify actuaries in Canada as well as the U.S. In addition, the CAS is the predominant source of qualified actuaries in Bermuda. Further afield, CAS members are employed in 15 other countries. But perhaps more importantly, we have exam centers in 24 countries where students are actively pursuing our exams.

As an educational body, the CAS is concerned with the advancement of actuarial science. However, some of the most significant technical advances in casualty actuarial science in the past two decades have originated outside the U.S. These include generalized linear modeling in pricing work, stochastic loss development models, and extreme value theory. It is to our benefit to be open to greater interaction with the global actuarial community, present and future.

Boa: What are the most important international issues currently facing the CAS and how do you hope to address them during your tenure as vice president-international?

Narvell: The growth in the number of CAS members and students outside the U.S. requires us to provide better services to those constituencies. There is clearly a strong and growing international demand for the CAS educational credentials. However, students in foreign countries face the risk that they will not be recognized as qualified actuaries in their home countries. This, in my opinion, is the overwhelming argument in support of pursuing balanced mutual recognition agreements. In order for the CAS to gain access to a larger body of talented and qualified candidates, we need to be open to more formal relationships with other actuarial organizations outside North America and achieve greater acceptance of the CAS training in more countries. We owe this to the students who are pursuing our exams.

Additionally, we should expand our involvement and interaction with other actuarial organizations. We ought to encourage the current CAS members in foreign countries to be more active in the actuarial societies of their host countries. To the same extent, foreign property casualty actuaries working in the U.S. should be invited to participate in professional development with the CAS. Lastly, in order to ensure the CAS perspective is represented in the development of global actuarial practice, we need to continue the CAS involvement in the International Actuarial Association.

The evolution of the CAS toward a greater international focus is of great interest to the present CAS membership. We need not fear that CAS growth outside the U.S. will lead to a dilution of the quality standards and value of the CAS credentials. This has not happened with our role in Canada and Bermuda and will not occur as we continue to evolve. Instead, the continued international expansion of the CAS will further raise the profile of the CAS credentials. One of my tasks as vice president-international will be to provide communication and information to the membership to ensure they are comfortable that the CAS standards of excellence are paramount in all the CAS initiatives on the international front.