Announcement: SOA releases December 2022 Exam FM passing candidate numbers.

General Session Speech, SOA 2019 SOA Annual Meeting & Exhibit


James M. Glickman, FSA, MAAA, CLU

Past President, Society of Actuaries


Just over a year ago, I began my term as president of the SOA. It was one of my proudest days, and I thank all of you for giving me this great honor. It was during my luncheon speech last year that I described my three priorities as president: 

  • First, improve our collaboration with other organizations.
  • Second, widen employment horizons and unlock new opportunities for actuaries.
  • And third, enhance the member experience through volunteer opportunities and professional development.

With help from an incredible number of people, we made great strides in all those areas and more. And we laid a foundation for a bright future.

The first priority - collaboration - achieves many goals. Obviously, it increases the SOA’s visibility inside our profession. But perhaps more importantly, it gives our profession visibility outside of our traditional industries, into the larger worlds of banking, business and financial advice. It allows us to be recognized for achieving greater results through our partnerships both inside and outside the actuarial profession. And it helps us extend our reach and brand to other parts of the world.

As many of you know, a two-year, effort at one of the biggest possible collaborations, a merger with the Casualty Actuarial Society, was unfortunately not accomplished, despite herculean efforts on both sides.

Yet, rather than go our separate ways, this effort helped us identify several additional opportunities to collaborate on a forward going basis.

Jim Christie, in a recent presidential article to his CAS membership, enumerated many of our existing collaboration efforts, while reaffirming the CAS’s desire to work with the SOA in several additional ways.

One of those was just recently announced when the CAS and SOA established the Joint Committee on Inclusion, Equity and Diversity, a crucial effort to identify and eliminate artificial barriers that prevent underrepresented groups from entering the actuarial profession.

Another important joint effort with an even wider group of collaborators was the banking seminar we conducted in D.C. this past May, working jointly with the CAS, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the Actuarial Society of South Africa.

Although, the SOA is based in the U.S., we are global in scope, with over one-third of our membership and an even higher percentage of our candidates residing outside the U.S.

Along with the CIA, the CAS, and the American Academy of Actuaries, we continue publishing our Actuaries Climate Index, showing how our profession can help quantify, in an unbiased way -- the change over time of extreme weather events. I discovered our Australian colleagues have a climate index as well, and we started talking to them about how we can better align our work to bring a global view to this important topic.

Several other new collaborations are in the discussion stage with the CAS, the CIA, the Academy, and the Conference of Consulting Actuaries in North America, as well as other actuarial organizations around the world.

We continue to look for additional ways to expand our educational offerings in the rest of the world with an emphasis on Asia, Latin America, South Africa and recently India.

As the largest actuarial organization in the world, the SOA continues to be influential within the International Actuarial Association. Mike Lombardi, last year’s president, has been working tirelessly on the IAA’s Renewal Task Force, designed to make that organization a more effective global voice for the actuarial profession. Over the next few months, the member organizations of the IAA will vote on several recommendations this task force has brought forward.

The second priority – widening employment horizons and unlocking new opportunities for actuaries – has witnessed progress on many fronts. In this area, we recently announced one of our greatest accomplishments of 2019. After years of hard work by our leadership, our staff and many of our General Insurance FSAs, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has formally recognized our general insurance track education system.

On another front, improving the quality, breadth and reputation of our training and certification is fundamental to our purpose. Never more so than in times like these. Disruptive technologies surround us. The rise of big data, predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence can be a wave we ride to greater heights, or, if unprepared, a riptide that pulls us under.

The SOA seeks to provide the learning tools and opportunities you need to conquer whatever comes your way. We are not here merely to survive disruptions; we are here to lead them. We have introduced a comprehensive, predictive analytics exam into our pre-qualification education required to become an ASA. Also, for our FSAs, we have successfully introduced an in-depth certification program in predictive analytics. It has been so popular, that each time it is offered, we have sold out. We are working hard to increase its availability to a level that will fully meet the demand for this training.

As more actuaries add predictive analytics to their skillset, either through the basic exams or through the certificate program, we can expect more actuarial jobs to be created in industries currently looking for data scientists, but which could benefit even more by hiring actuaries who are also trained in data science.

Just recently, we entered into a collaborative venture with a Tech Accelerator in Silicon Valley, Plug and Play, to help us expand our knowledge and to raise the profile of actuaries in the InsurTech world. On November 7th, we will be co-hosting our first program, the Long-Term Care Tech Summit, which you can attend in person at the Plug and Play headquarters or remotely via live stream. Also, at the recent InsureTech Connect conference in Las Vegas, we co-sponsored a very successful pre-conference educational program with the NAIC. This is just the start of our Plug and Play efforts, as we plan to create more educational activities, as well as business opportunities for our members, during the coming year.

Finally, the third priority - enhancing each member’s experience through improved professional development and increased volunteer opportunities - received a lot of board attention this year.

The SOA Board began work on three interrelated initiatives, one centered around our long-term growth strategy, another around a comprehensive review and redesign of our professional development programs, and the third one around young professional engagement including the creation of a new young professional’s advisory council.

As millennials now represent over 45% of our FSAs, creating the professional environment they will thrive in, will take all our creative resources.

I encourage each of you to help us in these efforts, by suggesting ways we can serve you better and create more opportunities for actuaries. I believe, as I know most of my predecessor presidents believed as well, that actuaries need to build their non-technical skills, and in particular, to become better communicators.

Actuaries have long been known for their technical competence, but unfortunately, they have also been viewed as not particularly adept at communicating their conclusions to a non-technical audience.

If we are to expand our presence in the C-suite as well as the wider world of finance, it is essential that we improve our ability to verbally and visually convey the power of actuarial science. We need to turn around our reputation, so an actuary is viewed as the best person equipped to communicate the conclusions, as well as to develop them.

I expect that our Professional Development Task Force will indentify new educational tools that actuaries will seek out to improve their business and communication skills. Part of the attraction should be the career advancement opportunities these skills offer, but it is up to us to make it compelling and fun for actuaries to learn them. I am particularly proud of how we have improved opportunities for our members to get involved in volunteer activities.

We need all of you to consider taking advantage of these activities in any way you are comfortable, whether you choose to help your colleagues by volunteering within the SOA, or if instead you choose to do so outside the SOA, in your communities. By providing access to these opportunities, we help our young professionals, who are well known for their belief in giving back to the communities where they live and work.

Looking back, I learned the reward of volunteering at a young age. As a high school student, I was president of our Hull House tutoring program, which travelled once a week down into a disadvantaged inner city area of Chicago. We tutored young kids in math, and I still remember how exciting it was for me, when I saw their faces light up as they came to understand a math concept that previously, had eluded them. It was just the first of many opportunities, where I have discovered how much more I receive back from my volunteer work, than I ever was required to put into it.

The SOA is also a big supporter of community volunteerism, mainly through its support of The Actuarial Foundation. By providing significant administrative and financial support, we enable them to spend more of their scarce volunteer resources on helping the communities. I know that some of you are currently involved in volunteering with the Math Motivators program, where volunteers work with math students from disadvantaged communities, providing tutoring assistance, while exposing those students to the potential opportunities in our field.

About 15 years ago, Robert Eaton, a recent graduate of the University of Florida, was just beginning his actuarial career. Despite the pressures of work and studying for exams, the volunteer bug bit and he started tutoring math students in the Boston area. As happens to most of us who get involved in volunteer work, he found the rewards far exceeded the effort. Soon after finishing his exams, he started volunteering for the SOA, grading exams and writing exam questions.

A few years later, he became involved in the Long Term Care Insurance Section, winning election to the Section council, and then serving as its chairperson. Since then, he has become heavily involved in furthering the LTC industry, serving last year as co-chair and this year as chair of the Intercompany Long-Term Care Insurance Conference Association. This is in addition to his work as chair of an SOA board task force. All of this effort was rewarded in his recognition as one of 2018’s outstanding volunteers. This year he is the recipient of one of my Presidential Awards, and last month, was elected to the SOA board, where I know he will be an important contributor for at least the next three years.

Another Presidential Award went to Bob Deutsch, in recognition of his donation to the Actuarial Foundation of its largest ever, single contribution --- $1 million. Bob’s gift will certainly enable thousands of young math students to receive tutoring from actuaries like Robert Eaton. Bob said – and I quote -- “Math is a foundational building block for so many fields beyond just math itself, such as healthcare, physics, engineering, urban planning and the list goes on.”

I look forward to seeing The Actuarial Foundation greatly expand its Math Motivators program, thanks in large part, to Bob’s generous contribution.

There are many ways for each of you to volunteer with the SOA and surely one or more of those opportunities should fit you perfectly. You can speak at a professional development event, be a mentor for younger actuaries, get involved in committees or research projects, or just be active in one of our special interest sections.

We have made a lot of progress over the past year, and under the continuing leadership of incoming SOA President Andy Rallis, as well as during the following year under the guidance of Roy Goldman, our new president-elect, we will boldly and successfully make the actuarial profession even better than it is today. But as we continue to improve, we must never lose focus on maintaining the quality and reputation of our SOA credentials.

Perhaps the biggest, unrecognized value, of each credential, is the knowledge that it is a license, and an opportunity to take risks in one’s own career. We can try new things, grow through new experiences, but being an actuary will always remain with us. It is one of the biggest reasons young people are attracted to our profession. It is both a launch pad, and a base to come home to.

So, let’s blaze new paths, and open new doors. Let’s stretch our yearning for knowledge and for acquiring the non-technical skills that will open doors for actuaries across the entire spectrum of financial industries.

Thank you all for giving me the privilege to serve you this past year. I am confident that the future looks brighter than ever.