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Letter From the President - The Strength of Momentum

Letter from the President

The Strength of Momentum

By Bruce Schobel

This month, I will leave the presidency of the Society of Actuaries and move on to new challenges, although I will remain a member of the SOA's Board and Leadership Team through October 2010. I have been honored and privileged to serve as your president—and, as must be obvious, I've had a ball! The most enjoyable task for every SOA president is handing out certificates to new FSAs at our Fellowship Admissions Courses, and I was extremely fortunate to meet more new FSAs as president than anyone ever—more than 1,100 outstanding, capable actuaries. What a tremendous honor that was for me! Having been a driving force behind the 2005–07 basic education restructuring effort, I know how bright, well educated and enthusiastic our new FSAs are—and how much they can expect to accomplish throughout their careers.

As is customary for all people in office who are about to pass the leadership baton, I'd like to spend some time reflecting on the accomplishments of the past year and looking ahead at our future plans.

Strong Leadership

I leave the presidency confident that the SOA's leadership is in good hands. Cecil Bykerk and I have worked together on SOA matters since the election of 2006 and even more closely since he joined the Leadership Team as president–elect in 2007. Cecil becomes president totally informed and well–positioned to lead the SOA forward, ably assisted by the Board. The SOA's elected leadership has never been stronger.

If you've been reading The Actuary for the past year, you have become familiar with the SOA's superb staff, led by our senior executive team of Greg Heidrich, executive director, and Stacy Lin, deputy executive director and CFO. They supervise more than 100 dedicated people who have been featured in a series of six articles in this magazine. I hope you feel more connected to the staff and will contact them if you need something the SOA can provide. The SOA team is committed, more than ever, to meeting the needs of its members and candidates.

Strong Strategic Plan

This month, the SOA Board is expected to approve a new strategic plan that has been in development for more than a year. The previous strategic plan covered 2004–07; the new one will take us through 2012. During the summer, you had the opportunity to review and provide comments on the draft plan. Thank you for the feedback—it helped us develop a strong and viable plan for the future. The new strategic plan identifies the SOA's key stakeholders, including for the first time candidates, employers and the public. It clearly spells out, in detail, the SOA's commitment and responsibility to develop and transfer actuarial knowledge. As is the outgrowth of all dynamic and effective plans, it will lead to a series of concrete initiatives.

One of those initiatives is ramping up the SOA's activities with regard to continuing education. With new continuing professional development (CPD) requirements already applicable in the United States and Canada—as well as the SOA's own CPD Requirement becoming effective Jan. 1, 2009—we must ensure that members have access to high–quality continuing education across all experience levels, practices and geographic regions. Continuing education has always been a core activity of the SOA, an inseparable part of our mission. However, we have to increase our efforts in this area to serve our members' needs in the future. This will be a massive undertaking, comparable in scale and intensity to the basic education restructuring that was completed early this year.

Strong Support

It's true—there is strength in numbers. We can't provide high–quality basic or continuing education alone—we need your help. I'd like to reinforce that we have an extremely capable staff at the SOA. They certainly can deliver educational content in a wide variety of ways, but we truly need actuaries to produce that content. Understandably, the SOA cannot hire all the actuaries we need to produce the content delivered through our large basic and continuing education systems. Therefore, we rely on volunteers—thousands of us devoting countless numbers of hours each year—to help us to deliver a high–quality, current and relevant professional education program. I thank all those who feel as passionately as I do about education and devote so much time to this worthy endeavor. Your efforts are very much appreciated.

In June, I wrote about the value of volunteering for our profession in a broader sense, not necessarily limited to the SOA. Serving on committees and the like is a terrific opportunity for you to expand your knowledge, improve your hard and soft skills and network with people doing similar work at other firms. Ultimately, volunteering can help you to become a better actuary. I believe that every actuary should give back to our profession at some point in his or her career. Some of us never seem to stop giving because we realize that when we give, we also get. In fact, a lot of people get, our employers included. It's our responsibility to remind them occasionally about the importance of volunteering and how far–reaching and beneficial the volunteering effort can be for everyone.

Strong Goals

When I ran for the SOA Board in 2001—and for vice president in 2004 and for president–elect in 2006—I listed three areas where I intended to direct my efforts. Briefly summarized, those three areas were:

  1. Restoring the relevance of our basic education system so we can add value for our employers.
  2. Improving cooperation among the North American actuarial organizations.
  3. Expanding actuarial practice into areas where we can contribute, but where our presence currently is small or non– existent.

The first goal has been achieved, though we must continually evaluate our educational syllabus to keep it current. The second is a work in progress, and I'm going to continue working on it from other vantage points. The third is very long–term and aspirational, but we are making steady progress through our efforts in enterprise risk management, our new CERA credential and our marketing campaign.

We've certainly come a very long way since 2001, when I arrived as a brand–new member of the Board. I've had the opportunity to meet and work with some very talented people, and I'm truly thankful for the opportunity to add to the momentum of our organization and our profession. I know that Cecil and the other SOA leaders are equally committed to moving the SOA and our profession forward. If we all pull together, we can achieve a lot more in the years to come. I hope that you will join us in that effort.