A Work In Progress … Interorganizational Cooperation

Letter From The President

A Work In Progress...
Interorganizational Cooperation

Virtually every leader of the actuarial profession has heard from members about the lack of coordination and cooperation among the five actuarial membership organizations headquartered in the United States.1 These complaints are not new, of course. They go back decades. Yet, despite their validity–and the very important fact that most of these organizations have considerable membership overlap–progress has, for the most part, been slow. But that's changing.

No discussion of interorganizational cooperation could be complete without mentioning Past President Steve Kellison's farewell column "Structure Matters," which appeared in the October 2005 issue of The Actuary. Steve eloquently described the inefficiencies and redundancies that are inherent in our profession's structure and bedevil us in so many ways. I cannot improve on his superb summary. Steve's words had a profound effect–not only on me–but on many, perhaps even all, of the people who have served and currently serve at presidential levels in those five organizations. We have not made interorganizational problems disappear, but we have taken some steps in the right direction to reduce and ultimately eliminate them–and are poised and determined to take more.

Time and space dictate that I be fairly brief, so I will focus on the most noteworthy accomplishments to date.

CUSP is Created

One very significant step was taken in January 2007 with the creation of CUSP, the Council of U.S. Presidents. This group is composed of the presidents and presidents–elect of all five U.S.–based organizations, who also serve as members of the AAA Board. CUSP generally meets in conjunction with the AAA Board, usually the day before.

Perhaps the most significant action by CUSP occurred at its very first meeting, when we agreed that the AAA should coordinate the positions of the U.S.–based actuarial organizations with respect to activities at the IAA.2 Previously, each organization adopted its own position on IAA matters independently. We often found our organizations taking disjointed or even contradictory positions at IAA Council meetings. The influence of the U.S.–based organizations at the IAA was much weaker than one might expect considering that roughly half the actuaries in the world work in the United States. Our organizations' positions were confusing to the IAA itself, which is accustomed to national organizations speaking with clear, nation–specific voices. Some of the U.S.–based organizations, like the SOA, are international and could never represent U.S. actuaries with the same clarity as can the AAA, which is a U.S.–only organization. Now that the AAA is coordinating positions and speaking on behalf of U.S. actuaries, our influence at the IAA has grown tremendously.

Working Hand in Hand

Most interorganizational cooperative efforts fall into two categories: (1) joint endeavors and (2) shared infrastructure. Sometimes these efforts involve only two or three organizations, but some involve more. We could list many items in both categories, but I'll describe just a few very significant ones:

  • Instilling new life into the Interorganizational Image Advisory Group. The Image of the Actuary marketing campaign began as a joint effort in 2003 but the effort between the organizations drifted apart. We are striving to reinvigorate the interorganizational Image Advisory Group, composed of the president–elect, the executive director and a communications staffer from each organization. This reconstituted group met for the first time on Dec. 18, 2007, and will continue working so that the marketing campaign has profession–wide direction and support.
  • Teaming up for meetings. Many of our profession's meetings are cosponsored. Examples include the annual SOA–CCA Employee Benefits Spring Meeting, which was introduced in 2006, the annual SOA–CAS–CIA3 Enterprise Risk Management Symposium, which has grown to an expected 600 attendees this year, and the "joint day" in Quebec City in June, when attendees from the SOA, CAS and CIA will meet together for the first time. Even at meetings sponsored by a single organization, some sessions are set aside for other organizations to present their work. The SOA, for example, customarily provides session time at its spring and annual meetings for the AAA.
  • Coordinating the distribution of surveys. All of the U.S.–based actuarial organizations conduct periodic surveys of their members and occasionally of actuarial candidates, employers and potential employers of actuaries. Starting this year, we are trying to coordinate these surveys so that members of multiple organizations are not surveyed multiple times on similar issues. We expect that combining these surveys will both increase participation rates and provide more meaningful results.
  • Joining efforts to create a single database. Actuarial databases have proliferated in recent years. No organization has less than one, and some have several. The SOA, AAA and CCA tried in 2003–04 to develop a single database that could be shared by all three organizations, but that effort failed. Each organization had its own requirements, some conflicting, and no single database could satisfy everybody's needs. Today, the effort to develop a single database is at best on hold, but we need to make these multiple databases talk to each other. An actuary who changes jobs shouldn't have to tell two, three or even more organizations about his or her new address. Telling one should be sufficient. That goal should be achieved this year.

A First!

Ideas for improved cooperation come from many places. On Jan. 29, 2008, the first–ever joint meeting of the presidents and senior staffs of the five U.S.–based organizations and the CIA was held in Washington. Roughly 40 people attended that meeting. While the presidents and executive directors already knew each other well, the second–level staffs did not. We broke into subgroups (IT, communications, etc.) where staffers with similar responsibilities could get to know what their counterparts at other organizations do and how they do it. We hope that our staffs can learn from each other and discover new ways to work together in the future. The goal is for interorganizational cooperation to continue long after the terms of the current presidents end.

The accomplishments I have mentioned here are certainly not comprehensive, but they indicate that we are headed in a positive and exciting direction with regard to interorganizational cooperation. This effort is a work in progress–one that will take time, energy and the highest level of commitment, and in my opinion, we are all more than up to the task.


  • 1 The five organizations, in alphabetical order, are the American Academy of Actuaries (AAA), the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA), the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), the Conference of Consulting Actuaries (CCA) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA).
  • 2 International Actuarial Association.
  • 3 Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

Bruce Schobel
SOA President