2020 Annual Meeting President Rallis Speech

Opening General Session: President Andrew Rallis

This year, these months, it has all been overwhelming, unexpected, challenging. The social injustices in our society. The pandemic. Natural disasters. The impact of the pandemic on health services, supply chain issues and the global economic fallout.

To quote Iron Man, Tony Stark, “It's an imperfect worldbut it's the only one we got.” 

This year asked a lot out of us. But we as an organization, as a profession – we have stood together. We have created a call to action on diversity and inclusion. We have adapted how we learn and what we learn. We never stood still and never will. When in-person meetings weren’t feasible, we were in front of our computer screens – still sharing ideas, finding ways to learn, staying connected, networking. Professional development events like this one went virtual. The FAC and APC went virtual. We postponed and rescheduled exams for the associate and fellow candidates. We learned to have committee meetings and gatherings in the digital world. But we didn’t lose our connections, our friendships, our organization. Before all of this year’s challenges, we had plans to be more virtual, more adaptable. And thankfully we were able to flex, to adapt, and to strive for the best. And that is thanks to countless, unwavering volunteers. You reached new levels. You continued to raise your hand. Thank you for stepping up.

Last year during my incoming remarks as president, I called out three particular areas of focus. One, globalization of the industry and the profession. Two, facing new technologies such as artificial intelligence and data science. Three, transforming our leadership abilities to help meet the needs of our constituents. Now, all three of these areas align with our long-term strategic growth plan. This guiding light, developed by our volunteers, staff and Board, encompasses many months of research, of observation and of asking ourselves the bigger questions – where can we go as a career – as a profession – and how do we get there? There isn’t a single answer and instead it is a multi-pronged, multi-year effort. Earlier this October we announced the specific efforts we’re taking to implement the long-term strategic growth. And I want to revisit those actions with you.

Looking at globalization: The SOA’s member and candidate populations have become more international in recent years. Yes, we’re concentrated in North America, but there is clear potential for growth in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. We need a workforce model and an education system including pre-qualification and professional development that is more global in nature. And to harness this opportunity, we’re going to need to partner more widely and intensively on education, including with local actuarial organizations. We seek to partner with other organizations especially on a global level. We seek to grow interest and interaction with our international members for research, for education and for professional development. In a few minutes I will be joined by several leaders from actuarial organizations around the world to further discuss the challenges and opportunities – and my hope is that we all learn a little something new from this dialogue.

This year has also led to difficult conversations and introspection on what we can do better to support future actuaries. I’ve shared my thoughts on several occasions on societal issues and what we can do – our part, our role – involving social justice. I appreciate your support with our new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategic initiative. It involved creation of a new special task force on personal conduct, retaining an outside firm to help us plan long-term strategic initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion; adding staff resources, and forming a new SOA volunteer team on diversity, equity and inclusion. We also will benchmark and publish data on racial, ethnic and gender diversity of our membership and candidates in order for us to measure progress. We are conducting research activities specifically focused on racial disparity, and we will increase funding for The Actuarial Foundation, the International Association of Black Actuaries and the Organization of Latino Actuaries. This is just a snapshot of our initiatives on this important issue.

Now let’s talk technology and skill development. With advancements in Artificial Intelligence, more data and new technology to do things with this data, and others outside of the profession interested in analyzing data – businesses are looking to get the most out of every bit of information that matters. Yes, the cost of making predictions is noticeably cheaper. And while we’re the original data scientists – it takes a lot of time and commitment to join our profession. So where does that leave us in this data-driven, fast-paced world?

We are at the turning point for our profession. We need to evolve our skills – to not only show our high IQ, but also to prove we can adapt and grow. We can build upon the social and emotional skills that businesses need. We can help our employers and clients make sense of the data to make good decisions. And to get there we plan to offer more tailored professional development for you. We are exploring how we can provide members and candidates with research and education in new ways. That includes us creating a highly flexible education system with multi-purpose, stackable education components. It is a new way of thinking about how one becomes an actuary. But all of these efforts are here to strengthen our profession, not water it down.

Now I’ve covered a lot of ground quickly here, but know that the SOA continues to be transparent and open to all your insights and feedback. And we have this roadmap up on our website – with regular status updates. Plus we’ll be sure to communicate when we need volunteer help on specific efforts. I hope you’ll answer the call. We need you – all of you – to continue our organization’s mission now and well into the future. Thank you.