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Letter From The President: Ensuring Growth

Letter From The President

Ensuring Growth

By Cecil Bykerk

IN THE FEBRUARY/MARCH ISSUE of The Actuary I discussed the SOA's key initiatives, one of which is our Marketing and Market Development Plan (MMDP). The MMDP was launched in 2005 with the goal of positioning actuaries as the leading professionals in risk management, targeting employers and, of course, reminding ourselves as actuaries of our profession's strengths.

To ensure the growth of the profession, we must also fill the pipeline by bringing our future members—students—into the fold. For years actuary has been ranked a top job in career guides and news articles. (This may even be the reason you decided to be an actuary.) You can see a few of these top job headlines in The SOA at Work column on page 34 of this issue.

Armed with this information, and much more, we have begun to establish a dialogue with students and those who influence their career decisions (teachers, guidance counselors, etc.). As our profession continues to evolve, we want academically talented young people with a career interest in applying their quantitative aptitude to know the opportunities that are available to them. This of course means not only our traditional opportunities in insurance and consulting, we also want to introduce the leading contributions the profession is making in enterprise risk management and financial services.

In fall 2008, we piloted a University Outreach program to formally provide college–age students with detailed information about the profession and our education system. To do this, we developed a series of one–day campus visits. Each visit is tailored to the school's needs, and includes:

  • Meeting with those who are influential in a student's undergrad and post–graduate decisions, such as business, finance, economics and math professors, admissions reps and career counselors.
  • A featured actuary (often an alumnus) who presents to students on the practical applications of an actuarial science degree or a career as an actuary.
  • A student roundtable lunch, which provides an informal setting for those who want to learn more about the profession.

Through these visits, we've learned that our CERA credential is a major area of interest for students, especially nonactuarial science majors. We are definitely pleased that students are seeing the broad applications of the credential.

At universities with a formal actuarial science program, we are meeting with current candidates to provide an in–depth update on the education systems. Following these meetings, SOA Education staff held lively question and answer sessions either in small groups or one–on–one conversations.

At the close of 2008, the combined work of the SOA's Education, Communications and Marketing teams resulted in meeting with just under 950 students and 50 professors or college representatives and involved five SOA members as featured actuaries. College visits included programs at Purdue; Drake; Iowa; Nebraska–Lincoln; Western Ontario; Waterloo; Illinois; and Illinois State. In 2009, we will hold several more outreach events at universities throughout the United States and Canada.

To continue communication with students and educators following the event, we launched, RiskIsOpportunity.net. There, students can get more information on the profession, review sample exam questions, see interviews with actuaries and learn the details on our upcoming campus visits.

Because many students start thinking about their career options in high school, this year we have expanded the program to work with the joint CAS/SOA Career Encouragement Committee on their outreach to high school students and educators. This will include updating and redesigning BeAnActuary.org, the profession's career Web site. In addition we are developing other program materials tailored to appeal directly to this audience. Complementary to this endeavor, we will begin work to develop new Actuaries in Action videos specifically targeted to promote the profession to a younger audience.

We have learned a great deal from the school visits we have held so far, and the overall feedback we've received has been extremely positive. We've established strong partnerships with the students and faculty at the universities we've visited, with much interest in future events or program extensions. In fact, the students and college representatives who attended our outreach events were so interested and engaged, they often asked so many questions that presentations ran longer than scheduled!

We've also learned that students would like to see more case studies, or examples of the work done by practicing actuaries. They would like to have a better understanding of how to apply their skills and want a better sense of what a day in the life of an actuary looks like, so we are including more of this information as we move forward with the program.

Following each event in 2008, we polled those who attended and found that 82 percent of professors and college representatives said they were likely or very likely to encourage students with strong math, business or science skills to pursue a career as an actuary. And 90 percent of students said they were likely or very likely to consider a career as an actuary.

I look forward to seeing these new professionals join the ranks of what I consider to be the greatest profession!

Cecil Bykerk, FSA, MAAA, FCA, Hon FIA, is president of the SOA. He can be contacted at cbykerk@soa.org.