April 2013

Letter from the Chair

By Steve Finn

Steve FinnMy wife calls me a “pack rat” because I keep a few items from my childhood, high school and college days—OK, six boxes’ worth of stuff. I find it difficult to throw things away because it can be fun to reminisce about the past; and for me, it is much easier to do this when I have a concrete object to help jog the memory.

The recent death of General Norman Schwarzkopf had me thinking back to the 50th Anniversary SOA Annual Meeting, held in San Francisco in 1999. In addition to presentations from Mario Cuomo and Bill Bennett, and a performance from Tony Bennett, the closing keynote speech on leadership was given by “Stormin’ Norman.” I pulled out my mildly worn copy of the annual meeting program (I keep it at work, so my wife can’t complain about it taking up space at home) to look through and see what the hot topics were 14 years ago and what has changed since then.

Looking at the front cover of the program, I could already see differences. Of the eight platinum sponsors for the meeting, half had different names from what they are called now. Paging through the program, I saw session titles and descriptions that made me laugh: “The New European Union,” “What Does President Gore Have in Store for Health Care?” and “Getting up to Virtual Speed on the Internet,” which included such topics as “How to select an Internet service provider” and ‘What cookies are.” Of course, some session titles from then still resonate today: “U.S. Social Security: To be or not to be?”, “Low Interest Rates Again—What’s Different This Time?” and “Variable Product Guarantees: Assessing the Risks.”

For me, one session from this meeting brought a true mix of the old and new. It was the hot breakfast sponsored by the then Computer Science Section. (It’s true; we have not always been called the Technology Section.) While our section name has changed since then, the overall goals set out for this session 14 years ago—learning how to cope with rapidly changing technology and developing a sense of where technology may be taking the actuarial profession—are still a part of our section’s mission today.

I hope you will find we are living up to these precepts in this quarter’s newsletter. We have some great articles, and we are also introducing a new feature that will present various techniques of rapid mental math calculation. Let us know how you like it!

I also want to welcome three new Friends of the Council: Trevor Howes, Woolford London and Rick Viesta. We are always looking for people who are willing to offer their time and talent to the Technology Section, and we look forward to their future contributions.

Steve Finn, FSA, MAAA, is a senior staff actuary at Ameriprise Financial in Minneapolis, Minn. He can be contacted at steve.j.finn@ampf.com.