Announcement: SOA releases October 2019 Exam FM passing candidate numbers.

General Session Speech, SOA 2018 Annual Meeting

Mike Lombardi

Mike Lombardi, FSA, CERA, FCIA, MAAA

Past President, Society of Actuaries



Last October in Boston, I kicked off my inaugural speech as Society of Actuaries (SOA) president. Throughout my presidency I have stressed the need to maintain our relevance as a profession. I urged you to lend a hand to help shape the profession's future. Standing still is not an option.

You are meeting that call to action with enthusiasm. You are leaders in your companies, in the SOA, and you act as representatives of this global profession. Thank you for your time and support to realize and achieve these aspirations.

But … there is much more to do. We cannot rest. We cannot sit still. We cannot let other professions pass us by.

We either embrace the new opportunities and challenges available, or we let ourselves be overtaken. As Henry Kissinger once put it, "The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been."

Both the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the SOA Boards of Directors recognize that the environment in which actuaries work is rapidly changing. As a profession, we need to maintain our competitive edge, embrace new opportunities, and better serve our current and future members.

And that is why our two organizations have agreed to explore a combination into one new professional organization that has the scale and resources to support our members' efforts to shape and grow the areas in which we practice.

Having one, new actuarial organization provides several key benefits.

  • It opens up new opportunities for us to deploy more resources and place our members at the forefront of leading-edge developments in evolving fields, including predictive analytics.
  • By developing a unified education system we can leverage best practices from both organizations. That means actuarial students would learn a common set of core fundamentals. Members and candidates could access rigorous and specialized tracks and professional development opportunities.
  • We can also gather a greater diversity of thought to serve members. Our two organizations working together as one can address areas of common interest from different perspectives and avoid duplicative efforts—allowing us to operate more efficiently.
  • And, finally, brand. All of these efforts contribute to a stronger global brand for the actuarial profession. Through one organization we can increase the value of our actuarial credentials and speak with one voice on actuarial education and research. It adds a new level of clarity for the direction of our profession.

We have launched the website StrongerAsOne.net to provide information on the topic and the anticipated next steps. We are very grateful for all the member feedback we have received and ask you to continue to let us know what you think.

The SOA Board spent several hours discussing this during its meeting over the weekend. Our discussions with the CAS are ongoing, and we are hopeful to have a proposal that the two Boards of Directors can vote on in the near future. If both Boards approve the proposal, then the combination would be presented to fellows for a vote in early 2019.

Now let's talk a little more about technology and its impact on the profession. Tech startups are making a dent within InsurTech. Artificial intelligence is here. We either learn how to harness it to perform our jobs more efficiently—or we risk someone else taking the lead.

We know data analytics—it is what we do. So why would we sit still while data science is thriving? We are experts in applying risk metrics to data analytics. Models and management of risk are in our DNA—it's what we do!

Our task is to demonstrate the continued dominance of our profession in fields where risk matters—to the bottom line, to global strategic direction, and to asset-liability management. Complex challenges need solving—and we do it well. You and I know the value that the actuarial profession brings to employers, businesses and the public. We need your help to remind others. Share your successes. Demonstrate your authority through your specialization.

As inspirational coach Tony Robbins says, “If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.”

You are here today because you want to expand and evolve your knowledge and skills. Spread what you learn so others can understand the work we do and why we do it.

So, what have we accomplished? We've expanded actuarial opportunities through our recent efforts with education and research, and collaboration with other associations. In turn, members are performing new roles with predictive models and analytics, and our education now arms future members with the risk analysis and presentation techniques that employers have told us they value.

We achieve our successes through execution of the SOA's 2017–2021 Strategic Plan. That plan guides our journey by giving insights into our decision process and the needed investments to accomplish our mission.

First, let's discuss how we've helped expand actuarial opportunities.

The SOA is committed to working with its members and candidates to determine how best to sharpen skills in new areas, such as in automation, predictive models and artificial intelligence.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

We purposely and strategically changed the curriculum to ensure that associates can meet employers' needs. Candidates are currently preparing for the new predictive analytics exam. They will analyze a data set in the context of a business problem, preparing them for real-life situations. We are emphasizing a better balance in understanding both short-term and long-term risk sharing, to enable our professionals to address evolving enterprise risk assessment needs. Building on the associate curriculum, we will also be aligning our fellowship tracks to support the evolving needs of actuaries.

What about existing fellows?

We sold out our two predictive analytics certificate programs for fellows and have another one scheduled for later this year. It is a relatively new program that brings together groups of 30 actuaries with some knowledge in predictive analytics. We build up their skills through a combination of e-modules followed by a two-day in-person case project. This certificate demonstrates to employers that fellows are versed in the latest predictive analytics actuarial techniques.

We also hosted the second annual Predictive Analytics Symposium last month, which brought together more than 200 actuaries to learn and to share best practices. Our InsurTech Task Force is working on ways to test risk models and data analysis techniques for use in actuarial science. As part of this effort, we are conducting outreach to InsurTech companies and startups to ensure we are addressing the right problems and to help them see the true value of actuaries in the application of predictive analytics.

Now, back to my earlier question about the future. How do we increase interest in the profession among potential actuaries?

We need to raise awareness of the actuarial field with students. From our joint study with participating actuarial organizations, we identified challenges and barriers to entry, and how we can help encourage more inclusiveness and diverse perspectives. Studies have shown that diverse perspectives result in overall better decision-making and outcomes.

The Actuarial Foundation recently received a national award recognizing its creative efforts to connect actuaries and math students through the Math Motivators program. The SOA matched members' donations to this program, which provides free math tutoring to low-income high school students.

Over the past five years, our Candidate Connect program has served candidates' need to meet with SOA members, to network, to improve their job-seeking skills, and to focus their careers. Thank you to all who participated in Candidate Connect events.

Additionally, the SOA's Young Professional Task Force presented its findings to the SOA Board to determine how best to serve younger members' career needs and understand how best to have them volunteer with our organization.

We'll be using the task force's recommendations to tailor future programs specific to millennials. In fact, millennials now represent 45 percent of our members. They are bringing into the mainstream, and global workspaces, the new uses of technology that they have grown up with.

Now let's discuss growth and collaboration globally.

This year we have reached a new milestone as an organization thanks to each of you. We have now exceeded 30,000 active SOA members around the globe! Congratulations!

This milestone not only signifies our continued membership growth; it also serves as a call to action to enhance our contribution as experts. As we grow in numbers, we must also build upon our skills to advance as leaders, in order to capitalize on more opportunities provided by our increased visibility.

Through our International Committee, including subcommittees in Latin America, Greater Asia and China, we have nurtured existing and new relationships with members, candidates and partners abroad. Events such as the Asia-Pacific Annual Symposium in Seoul, the SOA China Annual Symposium in Beijing, and the Asian Actuarial Conference in Hong Kong bring together leading experts, members and local organizations to provide professional development and networking opportunities.

We also seek new ways to bring tailored research to our members outside of North America. For example, we've partnered with LIMRA for a regional study on retirement in Greater Asia and China, to provide insights on how individuals address their retirement concerns. As an organization, we work both globally and locally. For instance, our Latin America Committee collaborated with the Casualty Actuarial Society on an international program in actuarial science this past spring in Colombia.

Our joint venture with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) is helping to create global interest in the Certified Actuarial Analyst (CAA) qualification. Through CAA Global, we have seen growth in the number of exam takers for this new qualification, and we have set in place professional development for these actuarial analysts.

I'm encouraged by our collaborative efforts to spread awareness of our profession, the skills of our members, and the potential there is for the profession to address global risks.

One last question. What actions can each of us take now?

  • Volunteer with the SOA.
  • Join a section and get involved with their section council.
  • Grade exams.
  • Write articles.
  • Provide research support and guidance.
  • Conduct local outreach with student clubs and high schools.
  • Mentor new actuaries and support actuarial candidates.
  • Tell students about the profession.
  • Share your knowledge with your peers and colleagues, at work and in the industry.

Participate locally, nationally and globally. Your time spent giving back makes us all better.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”

In closing, as an organization—as professionals—let's stay focused. Let's keep evolving. We learn; we adapt; we grow.

Thank you.