Whats In a Name?

Whats In a Name?


Report on the Implementation Task Force on Sections and Practice Areas By Karen Gentilcore We know what a section is...after all, we are one. But what is a practice area, and why all the hubbub about them?

Practice Areas

The SOA instituted practice areas about ten years ago to address the needs of actuaries as they practice in the main areas represented by our membership: Finance, Health, Life and Retirement. Activities in each practice area are managed by a Practice Advancement Committee, which is chaired by one of the Board Vice–Presidents. The practice areas report to the Board of Governors. Thus, practice areas have a top–down approach, as opposed to the sections bottoms–up focus. Each practice area has several research committees and a professional development committee, and each may have other committees, depending on the needs and interests of the members. You can review the committee structure for each practice area. Staff support for the practice areas consists of a staff fellow or staff actuary for each area, plus project management and administrative assistance.

Strategic Plan

The SOA has a strategic plan available to the general membership at In particular, read item #12. In alignment with that initiative, a task force was created to meeting the following objectives:

  1. Leverage section strengths,
  2. Incorporate the long–term perspective of the practice areas, and
  3. Link directly to the governing body

In June 2002, Chairperson Christopher Bone presented the recommendations of the Task Force on Sections and Practice Areas to the Board of Governors. The recommendations incorporate a two–phase approach. Phase I initiates significant improvements while retaining the current framework of the sections and practice areas. The improvements focus on enhanced integration of sections that currently align closely with their practice area and better communication initiatives. Phase II encourages sections to take over practice area responsibilities, further integrating the structures and eliminating practice areas per se. All sections would have representation on the Board of Governors, either from its own council or as part of a council representing a group of sections.

New Task Force

The SOA has created the Implementation Task Force on Sections and Practice Areas (ITF) to develop a plan to implement the recommendations of the first task force. Greg Gurlik is chairperson, and Kevin Howard is Vice–Chairperson; both have been active participants on the original task force. An important adjunct to the ITF is the ITF Review Group. The Review Group will provide additional input to the ITF as it develops ways to implement the recommendations. Each section is encouraged to appoint a representative for the Review Group so that we can ensure the sections interests are represented. Curtis Huntington, chairperson of the E&R Section Council, is the representative of this section on the Review Group. Phase I recommendations will be the focus for 2003. Phase II will require additional time to work through some of the larger issues and structural changes and will probably take an additional two years. The ITF will have held several meetings by the time this newsletter is published, and they plan to provide regular updates on their activities. For additional information on the ITF, contact staff liaison Karen Gentilcore at 847.706.3595 or kgentilcore@SOA.org.