Announcement: SOA congratulates the new ASAs and CERAs for May 2023.

Focusing On Strategic Initiatives

Letter From The President

Focusing On Strategic Initiatives

By Cecil Bykerk

DEVELOPING A LIST of key initiatives for the Society of Actuaries was an important project long in the making. It officially kicked off at our strategic planning summit in April 2008. It was always part of the plan to propose a consolidated portfolio of strategic and operational initiatives—something the SOA had never done before. We've always had strong and well thought–out goals and business plans, but this is the first time the Board of Directors has endorsed a package of initiatives, so to speak. Following are the 10 initiatives endorsed by the Board that we'll be addressing in 2009 and beyond:

  • Marketing and Market Development Plan (MMDP): Market and position the actuarial profession; establish actuaries as key leaders and decision makers in their traditional marketplace; establish an initial footprint in the broader financial services market; and conduct exploratory market research regarding opportunities in the broader health industry.
  • CE Redesign: Develop a framework for competency–based continuing education.
  • CERA Marketing: Continue to market and promote the CERA credential.
  • Intellectual Capital Framework: Define the framework for the SOA's role in developing intellectual capital through research, including a research agenda and supporting processes.
  • Role of Academia: Strengthen the role of the academic branch of the profession through Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAE); increase the number of academic actuaries; build strong business/academic partnerships.
  • Untapped Opportunities for Actuaries in the Health Industry: Create paths for actuaries to transition into the health practice area and develop ways in which actuaries can effectively compete in traditional and new health markets.
  • Leadership Resource Program: Establish a philosophy and supporting programs and tools to identify, recruit, track, develop, manage and recognize volunteer leaders.
  • Web Content Library: Capture, develop and distribute the actuarial profession's collective professional wisdom and advance our position as business thought leaders for the 21st century.
  • International Actuarial Education Program (IAEP): Cooperate with the International Actuarial Association (IAA) as it strives to develop an actuarial education program to be used primarily in less actuarially developed countries.
  • Explore Professional Networking: Develop Phase I of a program to explore the facilitation and promotion of professional networking, primarily in an online format.

The Board of Directors and key member leaders from Strategic Action Teams and various Board committees attended the summit. The Strategic Planning Steering Committee—the team commissioned by the Board to lead the strategic planning effort—was chaired by Ed Robbins, FSA, MAAA. Members included Chris DesRochers (vice chair), FSA, MAAA; Harry Panjer, FSA, FCIA, Hon FIA, CERA; Barry Shemin, FSA, MAAA; David Dickson, FSA, MAAA, FCIA; Greg Heidrich, SOA executive director; Stacy Lin, SOA deputy executive director and chief financial officer; and Kara Clark, FSA, MAAA, former SOA managing director of strategy.

I think it's important to provide some history as to how these 10 initiatives were chosen. At the summit, participants broke into small groups based on strategic themes and their areas of expertise. They examined our current initiatives and other goals and projects we were focusing on and the brainstorming started. Some of the questions they pondered were, "What are the most important initiatives the SOA needs to focus on?" "What will advance the SOA and the actuarial profession in general?" "What endeavors will benefit members most?"

A list of approximately 50 important initiatives surfaced from the brainstorming sessions. Some were projects that we were already working on; others were existing goals with suggestions for expansion; others were new. Developing that list of almost 50 initiatives was the first major step; prioritizing them was the second.

Over the summer, these initiatives were more clearly defined and tailored by staff and during a number of Strategic Planning Steering Committee calls. After careful research and consideration, and numerous reviews, the 10 initiatives were presented to the Board of Directors at their October 2008 meeting. These initiatives were fully endorsed by the Board.

Evaluating almost 50 initiatives was a lofty task, but we had excellent guidelines in place to help with the prioritization process. The group mapped those proposed strategic initiatives against the new strategic map and its following four themes:

  • Develop Knowledge: Produce and support research that expands the boundaries of actuarial science. Promote the development of intellectual capital and identify opportunities for its application.
  • Transfer Knowledge: Offer a prestigious credential and maintain its value through leading–edge and relevant educational systems and programs. Use a variety of delivery channels to disseminate and facilitate knowledge transfer.
  • CULTIVATE OPPORTUNITIES: Establish and expand the actuarial brand and marketing message. Create and promote new areas of practice. Ensure a robust stream of well–qualified new candidates and credentialed actuaries.
  • DEVELOP AND PROMOTE PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS: Promote Sections as knowledge communities and networking facilitators. Develop long–term partnerships/relationships with actuarial and other professional organizations globally. Proactively develop and extend relationships across academia, think tanks and policy influencers.

Ed Robbins and his team ensured that the 10 initiatives were distributed evenly across the theme board. This list is comprised of the initiatives that pack the biggest punch; have the broadest appeal; develop and promote our profession and actuarial networks in general; and provide the most valuable resources for our membership overall.

While we have these 10 strategic initiatives in place, it's important to stress that we will be aggressively assessing each one as they are being built and carried out. We'll be asking a host of questions as they evolve—questions like, "Are we seeing the results we expected?" "Are the initiatives moving the success measures we have in place?" "Are they closing the gaps we had in this particular area?" Based on the answers to those questions, recommendations to accelerate, modify or stay the course will be decided.

Working with these initiatives is a constantly fluid process—nothing is etched in stone. Flexibility is key as we work to put these 10 initiatives in place. We have to know when to make changes and continuously question and evaluate our outcomes. If something needs to be fixed, we have to fix it. If something isn't broken and works well, we have to be intuitive enough to let it stand on its own merits. If we need something completely different, we have to know when to rebuild. This type of thinking is essential and will yield successful results.

I would also like to stress that we have a number of other operational initiatives that focus on research, education and other relevant programs and processes that we will be working on as well.

In closing, I'd like to thank all the people who dedicated their time, talent and expertise with regard to defining and developing these key strategic initiatives. As I mentioned earlier, this is the first time the SOA has had a consolidated set of initiatives and everyone should be proud of this accomplishment.

I'd like to also thank the volunteers who worked on this project. For those of you who heard my acceptance speech at the recent Annual Meeting, I'm big on volunteering. It plays a significant role in creating our culture, and it played a major role in creating our 10 initiatives for 2009. We're already seeing the fruits of our labor and the beginning of many achievements to come. From where I sit, it's going to be a great year!

Cecil Bykerk, FSA, MAAA, FCA, Hon FIA

The Actuary Has Gone Green

I'm sure you've noticed the new look of our magazine. As we have done with a number of our publications, and continue to do, The Actuary is now being printed on an environmentally friendly paper stock and we are no longer mailing the magazine in a plastic wrapper.

Making the change to new paper gave us the opportunity to create a new look for the magazine overall. The design is modern, the font is crisp and the graphic images reflect the new image of actuaries.

We hope you enjoy the new look and feel. We welcome your feedback. Send your comments to

Cecil Bykerk, FSA, MAAA, FCA, Hon FIA