May 2013

Chairperson’s Corner

By Faisal Siddiqi

This year has started off in a very exciting way for the Society of Actuaries’ Pension Section. Many of the initiatives that we started to develop during 2012 are coming together and we have received excellent responses to them from our membership in terms of attendance and participation in our webcasts, attendance at the SOA Annual Meeting pension sessions, submission of articles for the Pension Section News, and furthering the research activities of the section.

In addition to these tangible metrics, the Pension Section Council has been working on various new ideas for projects beyond 2013 that we hope our membership will find valuable.

Annual Meeting Sessions, Webcasts, and Podcasts
Our offering for continuing education opportunities has never been better and the attendance and participation at these events has been excellent. We offered 16 different pension related sessions at the 2012 SOA Annual Meeting. Topics covered included funding relief, de-risking, mortality and longevity, disability issues in retirement, sustainability of pension plans, and public pension plan issues. All of the feedback we received indicated the high quality of our speakers and topics selected. In 2013, in San Diego, we are also planning to have around 16 sessions covering the following themes: providing retirement income in a challenging economy, improving retirement designs: current state and new approaches, funding and investments for DB plans, mortality and longevity topics, and ethics courses for those of you looking to complete your EA requirements this year. As you’ve come to know, these meetings are a great way to learn, connect with your friends and meet new ones.

2012 was one of the busiest and most successful years ever for webcasts. We offered ten sessions (three of which were jointly sponsored with the Conference of Consulting Actuaries) and the topics seemed to be spot on. Again, much of the feedback was positive. In 2013, we have started with six initial sessions (with more in the works) and are running a pilot subscription service for larger actuarial employers. The pilot subscription service provides organizations that have many offices a flat fee to allow all their staff to participate in our six webcasts.

We posted four podcasts by early March and expect to have another five to six more by June. The podcasts are a response to last year’s Pension Section Survey where many respondents asked for us to produce podcasts for CE purposes. We have taken this challenge on and produced podcasts which highlight some of our newest research reports as well as excerpts from our annual meeting sessions that we feel our membership will find of value. Try them out! Most are five to 10 minutes in length, cover relevant/interesting topics, and they are available through the SOA’s podcast “channel” on iTunes or the SOA Pension Section webpage.

New Ideas
As mentioned in the January 2013 PSN, the Pension Section Council has been busy developing new ideas for future projects and bringing to life ideas that were put forth during 2011/2012. Some of the ideas we are working on are as follows:

  • Pension Plan Design and Governance: using ideas from the four winning papers developed under the Retirement 20/20 initiative, we are working on developing important principles to help pension actuaries think through future plan designs and assist with pension governance. This applies to both single-employer private plans and public plans as all types of plans are facing increasing funding and administration challenges. These are complex issues to work through, however, if attempted from an independent view, it will help our publics (plan members, plan sponsors, and regulators) in the long run.
  • Mortality and Longevity Education: using the work of the Society of Actuaries’ Retirement Plans Experience Committee (RPEC) and input from various interested stakeholders, the Pension Section is putting together a “toolkit” for pension actuaries: information in a presentation format you need to know (and can use) in helping clients understand the key issues around mortality improvement and the implications for setting mortality table (and mortality improvement) assumptions. We are also providing financial support on a Longevity Calculator being developed with an American Academy of Actuaries working group which will help individuals and couples understand how long they will survive individually or jointly, respectively, and help to plan their finances accordingly. Finally, we are also planning to build a reference resource for pension actuaries which involves consolidating and presenting in cohesive manner the current thinking on mortality and mortality improvement. As you can see, this is a rich and dense topic and we hope to make it easier to understand through our work.
  • Brainstorming In General: using the great amount of research that the Pension Section has already conducted, is currently conducting, and the vast experience and knowledge of our council members and section membership, we are currently brainstorming topics to pursue with respect to defined contribution pension plans, pension plan investments and de-risking efforts, and general plan design. A lot of this thinking is based on the responses from our section membership for more detailed research to help them with their consulting needs and to advance the thinking of the profession which has broad application going forward. As we formulate and refine our thinking on these topics, we will update you.

As I mentioned at the beginning, we are working on some very exciting projects that are both intellectually stimulating and of practical value to our section membership. We look forward to your attendance at our meetings and webcasts and your participation in the new ideas we are developing for the future.

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