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Chairperson's Column: Forging Ahead

Chairperson's Column: Forging Ahead

by Chuck Ritzke

Before I say anything else in my first section chair column, I want to mention how fortunate we have been for the leadership we have had during the two years I have been on the council. As I think you will see in the coming months, we are looking to blaze new trails with respect to what our section offers to members. Our ability to move in this direction has been largely due to the creative leadership of our previous section chairs. I want to thank Dan Cassidy, our 2006 chair who is rolling off the council, for his guidance with our plans for the future of the section. I would also like to thank our other council members who ended their term in 2006 (David Ward, Vickie Williams and David Hart) for all of their efforts. We will continue to bug them for their ongoing support.

Next let me officially welcome new council members Kevin Dolsky, Michael Frank, Sandor Goldstein and Michael Pisula to the council. They join Ruth Ann Woodley, Dave Miller, Marcus Robertson, Ian Duncan (our 2005 chair) and me to make up your 2007 section council.

And this would not be complete without thanking our SOA staff support (including, but not limited to Emily Kessler, staff partner, Sue Martz, staff support, and Meg Weber, Director of Section Services) for their ongoing patience, guidance and support of some of our wacky new ideas . Finally, we look forward to working with Jay Jaffe, our new BOG partner. He is one of us!

 

Moving on to our plans for 2007, it is interesting to me how much the two tag lines for the SOA brand particularly apply to our section. "Actuaries – The Best Kept Secret in Business" certainly has meaning to many members. How do we figure out how not to be a secret to our prospective customers? How do we find customers or make sure that they can find us? How can we find and develop new markets for our services? And the current tag line, "Risk is Opportunity," is certainly something that our members can relate to. Developing new business opportunities, being responsible for meeting a payroll, and investing your time and resources in your business all involve substantial risks. Risks we take because of the opportunities that we see.

Those themes are the driving force behind our Entrepreneurial Actuaries Section name change and initiatives for 2007. You do not have to be a "consultant" let alone a "smaller consulting firm" to be interested in what we are looking to offer. One dictionary aptly defines entrepreneur as "a risk-taking businessperson."

However, we are looking to be much more than a sexy name. We feel that we are unique among sections. That requires unique goals, objectives and member benefits. All sections offer educational and networking opportunities. They all publish newsletters (although I think ours has been one of the best under the ongoing editorship of Ruth Ann Woodley). We all recruit the volunteers that put together SOA meetings and help support other SOA initiatives. We will continue to do those things. But in addition, we have been asking ourselves (and members through surveys), what are some more tangible services and benefits we can offer that provide added value to our members?

First, a common theme is the need for more cost-efficient educational and support offerings. It is very hard to find the time and justify the costs of attending many professional meetings. So we are expanding our webcast offerings at greatly discounted cost to members. We are also continuing to offer regional networking meetings closer to your home.

Speaking of taking risks, we took a risk by increasing our membership fee to $40 in 2007 because of the aggressive plans we have made. We know that our members must spend their money wisely, so we are also looking at ways to increase your buying power through section membership. Our goal is to create new benefits so every member can use at least one that will more than pay for their section fee. We are an attractive target market for many providers of products and services to small businesses. Our initial inquiries have shown that there are many who will gladly provide discounts and special benefits in exchange for getting access to our membership through our Web page and newsletter. You will see more on that in upcoming issues.

Finally, I like to think that our section has a key role in the future plans of the SOA. The SOA, through its branding and other initiatives, is looking to enhance the relevance of the actuary in business, develop new skill sets and promote opportunities in new areas for actuaries. Where better to look for such opportunities than the section whose members are already out doing these kinds of activities?

But we are attempting to do a lot here. And we cannot do it without many more dedicated volunteers, well beyond the numbers in our section council. So I invite you to get involved. Tell us what you need! Help us get your new ideas going and our current ideas moving faster. Contact anybody on the council to talk about how we can work together.

May your business prosper in 2007!

Charles E. Ritzke, FSA, MAAA, is president of Problem Solving Enterprises, Inc. in West Dundee, Ill. and Chairman of the Entrepreneurial Actuaries Section.