November 2012

Chairperson's Corner

By Penny Bailey

As my term on the Pension Section Council draws to a close, I am especially thankful for the opportunity to serve in this role. It has been a role that has allowed me to expand my horizons, meet and network with some extremely talented individuals in our profession, and contribute in some small way to the ongoing work of the Pension Section and the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

I mentioned in my first article as chairperson of the council that much of the work of the SOA and the Pension Section Council is carried out by volunteers. I have been asked on several occasions about why I had taken on this role and whether I thought it was worth it. Clearly all of us have had moments when we’ve been spread too thin, and it is difficult to find the energy and time to take on additional projects. However, no matter how hectic my work and home life have been, my answer is always, unequivocally, that it has been worth it.

So if you’ve ever considered volunteering with the SOA, I strongly encourage it. If you want to know what you get out of the experience, I would say there are a number of things. We often get so caught up in our day-to-day jobs and in the perspective of our particular employer that we aren’t challenged to think outside the box. Participating in the Pension Section Council has given me exposure to many different views on diverse topics. In addition to different views, I would also say that they are broader perspectives. The Pension Section is focused not only on what impacts us in our daily work, but on issues that will impact the profession far into the future. For example, take plan terminations. The Pension Section has sponsored education and research on the topic that covers not only the mechanics of how to complete a termination, but also understanding how annuities are priced, and exploring if the bond supply is adequate to support de-risking strategies.

I continue to be in awe of the volume and quality of research that is produced by the Pension Section, again by an army of volunteers. Prior to my tenure on the council, I can honestly say that I was completely unaware of the importance and depth of this research. I suspect a number of you reading this article are in a similar position. The research that is completed has relevance to everything I do in my job. I find it phenomenally helpful in discussions with my clients. Through my work on the council, I’ve not only become exposed to the research, but have had a say in shaping some future projects.

One example of recently completed research is the “Pension Valuation Methods and Assumptions” report. This report contains matrices comparing the guidelines for assumptions and methods used to prepare actuarial valuations for retirement plans in the United States and Canada. The goal is to highlight the differences between pension liability calculations based on geography (Canada and the United States), valuation purpose (accounting, solvency and funding) and plan type (private, municipal, federal and Social Security). As a consultant, this report can be helpful in training new analysts, brushing up on an area of practice that you may not deal with frequently, or helping clients understand the various liabilities we use and their purpose.

Not everyone is going to be willing to commit to serve a Pension Section Council term. However, there are lots of other ways to volunteer to help with the Pension Section activities. You could consider serving on one of the Pension Section committees—Research, Education or Communication—or helping with individual projects of limited duration. We received responses from numerous members volunteering to assist with the section’s work in our recent survey. We are currently working through the best way to make use of the new talent and will be getting back to everyone shortly.

I want to especially thank our candidates for the Pension Section Council this year. The following individuals volunteered to serve in this capacity if they were elected:

  • Carol Bogosian
  • Monica Dragut
  • David Kausch
  • Martin McCaulay
  • Joseph Tomlinson
  • Aaron Weindling

We greatly appreciate their willingness to participate and shape the Pension Section. Monica Dragut, Aaron Weindling and Martin McCaulay will begin new three-year terms in October, and Carol Bogosian will serve a one-year term.

All in all, participating in the Pension Section activities has helped improve my skills as an actuary, as a consultant and as a leader. I hope each of you can find some time in your career to volunteer and perhaps expand your own horizons, and I thank you for this opportunity to serve as chairperson of the Pension Section.

Penny A. Bailey, FSA, EA, MAAA, is chairperson of the Pension Section Council for 2012. She is a partner with Mercer in St. Louis, Mo. She can be reached at