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The Image Campaign for the Actuarial Profession - Turn Risk into Opportunity

The Image Campaign For The Actuarial Profession–Turn Risk Into Opportunity

by Stephen G. Kellison

A major campaign to change the image of the actuary is now underway.

As you read this issue of The Actuary, the North American actuarial organizations (click here for list) are busy working together to implement a focused, coordinated campaign to enhance the image of the profession. Will it work?

I've been around long enough to know that previous efforts to promote the profession have had mixed results and ultimately been abandoned–perhaps too soon. What makes this campaign different, and why should we believe it will be effective in the eyes of the SOA membership and the profession at large?

Here are five reasons why I believe our image campaign will succeed:

Reason #1: The time is right.

A reading of E.J. Moorhead's Our Yesterdays: The History of the Actuarial Profession in North America chronicles a profession that for more than 100 years has risen to meet challenges at every turn–among them image problems!

Today, our profession has seen (and many have felt!) the effects of consolidations, mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, outsourcing and top management changes. Couple this with the explosive growth of "alternative" credentials in the broader financial services sector. Our members are well aware of these trends and are supportive–by a large margin–of the need for an image campaign in the latest member survey.

Reason #2: Opportunity is at risk.

While there is clearly no "burning platform" it is abundantly clear that opportunity is at risk. The opportunity for our best and brightest leaders to rise to leadership positions (e.g. chief risk officer, chief financial officer) in traditional firms is too often undermined by our "narrow and technical" image. At the same time, we risk being shut out of rewarding senior positions in the fast-growing broader financial services sector. We cannot afford to take that risk.

Reason #3: The campaign is grassroots focused.

To my great pleasure, our image campaign places a great deal of emphasis on grassroots action. I believe that this is critically important because, as former SOA and Academy President Barbara Lautzenheizer has so eloquently observed, "Each one of us speaks for all of us."

An example of this grassroots focus is our renewed emphasis on promoting our profession's pioneers as role models for younger actuaries and outstanding examples of a dynamic and relevant profession for key external audiences.

Our resource commitment and tone will reflect this emphasis, and we will produce tips, tools and techniques that actuaries can really use to send the message that our employers and customers need to hear.

Reason #4: The entire profession is involved.

We are committed to making this a profession-wide initiative and are well served by our Image Advisory Group, made up of two representatives from each of the North American actuarial organizations. As an early expression of our commitment, we conducted a "straw poll" on three potential image campaign themes at each organization's fall meeting, and over 1,400 actuaries provided their input.

As just one example of this cooperation, the Academy has agreed to provide promotional support in Contingencies magazine through 2005 to complement promotion in The Actuary.

Reason #5: SOA's strategic plan makes it a priority.

Significant change requires a "sponsor" who is committed to success. SOA's strategic plan, our roadmap for the next four to six years, establishes the image campaign as a key priority. This means that it will continue to receive resources and leadership support through these critical early years, as it becomes a new way of doing business for organizations and practitioners alike.

It's up to you to take the first step.

As Plato said, "The beginning is the most important part of the work." I invite you to take the first step by viewing the special image campaign announcement CD mailed to you in January.

Take five minutes to watch the video and complete the short survey at the end. This insight will enable us to provide you with the best tips, tools and techniques to help you put the image campaign to work where it matters most–in your workplace.

I am convinced that we can turn risk into opportunity, not only in the workplace, but also in our own professional lives, by speaking loudly with one voice and claiming our rightful place in global corporate, political and social leadership.

On behalf of the SOA leadership, we appreciate your support and look forward to joining you in this important fight for the future of our profession.

Stephen Kellison is the president of the Society of Actuaries.