January 2013

Chairperson’s Corner

By Faisal Siddiqi

I hope that everyone had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season this year and is looking forward to a great 2013 from both a personal and business perspective. I would first like to thank Penny Bailey, the previous chair of our section, for her hard work and leadership on many of the projects while on council. I look forward to moving ahead on some of the these prior projects that are multi-year in nature and some new ones we have under way in 2013 with the great cast of council members we have this year.

Council Activities
As you many know, the purpose of the SOA’s Pension Section is to help advance research in the retirement area, provide our section members with opportunities for continuing education via webcasts and meetings, and to communicate pension topics via the Pension Section News and other vehicles. During the coming year, the Pension Section will be working on various projects to further our purpose, teaming with other sections to produce some great quality research and continuing education opportunities, and also thinking about the long-term future of the retirement arena and how we can help you and the profession succeed.

Some of the projects we have under way this year are related to promoting our Pension Section research, preparing podcasts, educating on mortality/longevity issues, and evaluating investment opportunities for pension actuaries. I will touch on each of these, as follows:

  • Promoting our research: the Pension Section has a long history of producing some ground-breaking research to help practitioners and the public alike. The research is conducted by many experts through academia, consulting firms, and volunteer efforts. However, I suspect many of our section members are not aware of how much research has been done and where to find it. Therefore, we have organized a group of our council members to review the research done and find the best way to promote it.

  • Podcasts: after conducting the 2012 Pension Section Survey, we found that many of the respondents were supportive of the section preparing podcasts to help communicate pension related topics whether it be research or any interesting topic that is top of mind. Luckily, the Society of Actuaries was already there and with their assistance we have prepared some initial podcasts highlighting recently completed research projects. These short podcasts give you a quick overview of the research from the authors’ perspectives. Please listen to our podcasts and let us know what you think!

  • Mortality/longevity education: the section and the SOA have put in a great effort over the last two to three years to understand improvements in mortality, how it improves and where this is headed. You are all familiar with the new Scale BB, however, more is coming. To help our section members understand mortality improvement and how to communicate this to various stakeholders, the section has been and will continue to include articles in the Pension Section News, hold sessions at meetings, and produce reference material to be used as needed. In fact a specific project is a mortality toolkit that includes a short slide deck to be used in client meetings. This is a joint effort with the American Academy of Actuaries and we hope it will raise the comfort level and knowledge of pension actuaries with respect to this complex and sometimes confusing area.

  • Investment Opportunities for Pension Actuaries: this is a very exciting new project for us and we are exploring ways to promote pension actuaries in two ways. First will be to the investment community where we feel pension actuaries can provide expert advice with respect to pension investments. Second is moving pension actuaries along the spectrum to be more comfortable with discussing investment topics and corporate finance issues with the organizations they provide advice to. Look forward to our plan in this area through future Pension Section News articles, podcasts, and meetings.

We will also be working more with other sections in 2013. We have a natural connection to the Investment Section. You will see us working together on the upcoming Investment Symposium, working on webcasts, conducting research, and preparing articles for each of our respective section newsletters. We also have plans to work with the Social Insurance and Public Finance Section related to social security topics.

Finally, we are exploring some long range topics for the Pension Section to investigate further to help our members based on your feedback. We are looking at some of the fundamental shifts in demographics, longevity, pension plan types, retirement risks, and interest rates. These are very big picture issues but also topics where pension actuaries and experts can provide some great research and expert opinion based on our training and experience. I hope that you will stay tuned and interested in many of the projects listed above and even excited enough to provide input by participating in a meeting session, writing an article, conducting research, or just adding in your two-cents if you have feedback on our work.

Faisal Siddiqi, FSA, FCIA, is principal and consulting actuary at Buck Consultants in Toronto, ON. He can be reached at Faisal.Siddiqi@buckconsultants.com.