Tom Bakos, FSA 1972, MAAA
Tom Bakos Consulting, LLC
President / Consulting Actuary
Brief description of the type of work you currently do:
Actuarial Consulting; Actuarial Expert Witness work; Financial Reporting (Bermuda)
Primary Area of Practice:
Other (i.e., Non-traditional / Intellectual Property / Invention)
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Life, Financial Reporting, Risk Management, Marketing, Product Pricing/Development, Regulatory, Reinsurance, Property Insurance (e.g., Pet Insurance)
Ethics and Transparency
Ethics and transparency are essential to professional practice and service on the Board. How have you demonstrated ethics and transparency in the past? How will your own ethics and views on transparency influence your decisions and actions as a member of the SOA Board?
Over a period of, approximately, 16 years I have served on and been chairman of the Academy Committee on Professional Responsibility and have also served on the Academy Council on Professionalism. In this capacity, I have participated in drafting and editing several papers on professionalism addressing ethical issues which are currently posted on the Academy website.
As you review the responsibilities of the President-Elect job description, the 2017-2021 strategic plan and 2017 initiatives, describe how you will work together with the officers, board members, committee chairs, volunteers, executive director, and staff to fulfill your presidential responsibilities and advance the direction of SOA.
The President-Elect serves on the Leadership Team responsible for setting Board meeting agendas and maintaining staff relationships. The authority to establish meeting agendas is a powerful direction setting tool. I would encourage the Leadership Team, which is accountable to the full Board, to establish procedures through which Board members can offer suggestions or proposals for Board consideration and thereby participate in agenda setting. This would better inform and involve the Board improving transparency.
Following Board Policy, I would encourage Board members to become familiar with the needs and opinions of SOA members so they might report this back to the Board. The normal contacts Board members routinely have within their companies could be tapped. In addition, the program developed wherein Board members interact with Section leaders would be enhanced to seek inputs relevant to these section leaders’ areas of practice.
Volunteer board members ought to become more involved in setting the direction of the professional organizations so that staff follows professional leaders rather than being led by staff. For example, the SOA Strategic Plan appears to be, primarily, a staff product, certainly packaged well, but fragmented, too long, and difficult to follow. There is too much history and advertising.
I would encourage through the Leadership Team a change in the structure of Board presentations on significant matters. Rather than have a single committee or task force review, analyze, and propose a recommended action for easy adoption by the Board, I would appoint a pro and a con side to present well-reasoned opposing points of view. These sides may include passionate SOA members well qualified and expert in the subject matter under discussion.
My leadership style would allow full on member participation and investment in the setting and the achievement of the SOA’s goals.
Describe a recent situation where you have facilitated a diverse group of people in moving a significant project to the next stage of completion.
Since becoming an independent consulting actuary about 18 years ago, I have, typically, worked in small groups of very diverse people all trying to achieve a common business objective. The SOA Board members all have the same basic professional attributes revolving around risk and support a common strategy. However, managing a profession through its Board involves diverse opinions even though the members themselves may come from similar backgrounds.
One example of my being in a diverse group, or, at least, a group with diverse opinions, has been my membership in my Home Owners Association governing body working with neighboring groups and a county road department in maintaining our local, gravel roads. We include one actuary, several lawyers, some builders, and some managers of various sorts of activities. We come from many parts of the country, have many different backgrounds and kinds and levels of expertise.
In this work I have recognized the need to exercise common sense but rely on the expertise that others bring to the project. Common sense is necessary because, when in a position of leadership, one should not believe, without reflection, everything one is told nor feel bound to a set of rules within one’s power to change. Common sense must be exercised to understand and incorporate the expertise the diverse group of individuals you are working with contribute to a solution. For example, it would have never occurred to me that to get washboarding out of a gravel road one needs a deep cut with the grader, water, and compaction. Pushing new stone into the road is not a long-term solution.
In short, any problem can be addressed by the good faith agreement on a common goal and reliance on the expertise of others.
In your presidential role you will act as an ambassador for SOA, its members, and the profession. Provide examples of how you would fulfill this responsibility during your term of office and describe a current situation in which you have successfully acted as an ambassador for an organization or institution.
Being an ambassador of the SOA means, first, being an outstanding member of the actuarial profession. Next, it means accepting the leadership role as President-Elect as a duty and obligation both to the SOA and to the actuarial profession. Being elected a presidential officer of the SOA is not the bestowing of honor and privilege by the members. It is not an end; it is a beginning.
Actuaries have the unique ability among all professions to understand risk. Actuaries identify, measure, manage, mitigate, price, and address the financial consequences of risk. All kinds of risk fall under those actuarial processes – some we may not even have thought of yet; some fall outside the traditional practice of insurance. By demonstrating an ability to handle risk, led by actuarial professional organizations that explain risk, actuaries are made relevant and important in the economic societies in which they function.
One best serves the actuarial profession by example:
- My actuarial work has focused on maintaining high standards for service to policyholders for the insurers I have worked for, particularly within mutual companies.
- I have created a reputation for my own consulting practice, in which I serve as the only ambassador, for quality actuarial service worthy of recommendation to others.
- Over the years, my writing for Contingencies magazine and other publications demonstrating that some actuaries can be articulate and have many diverse interests.
- I have expanded my actuarial practice into nontraditional and non-SOA areas - presentations made for the USPTO and at, for example, CAS meetings.
I do not advertise my consulting practice (except for maintaining a website). All new work comes to me via referral from existing clients or reputation.
As you focus on the future direction of SOA and the profession, explain your approach to setting the direction for both especially in the global arena.
My personal approach involves recognizing that the SOA is just one of the global actuarial professional organizations each of which may operate in subject matter areas not traditionally within the domain of the SOA and, certainly, on a global basis, in differing social and cultural environments which may dictate differing insurance, financial, and legal approaches to the handling of risk. The SOA would operate most effectively as partner to the other actuarial organizations – not as a competitor.
I would encourage the SOA emphasizing its strategic plan to “promote effective relationships” with other actuarial organizations both within the U.S. and globally. Internationally, the SOA should recognize that, in areas of the world in which the actuarial profession is growing, it is quite reasonable for actuaries to want to associate within more comfortable national, cultural, and language organizations.
There are many other ways in which the SOA can grow. It seems to be inefficient and expensive to attempt to grow by adding minority membership classes that will require services in unfamiliar territory: practice areas, legal environments, social or cultural structures, languages, and time zones.
There is merit in following an agreed to common path, but a visionary leader looks beyond and questions the current strategies. Disruption leads to innovation. I would emphasize SOA growth not in numbers but in quality. Quality creates a well-earned advantage. We should be the best at what we do. We can re-vision meeting structures and content so as to encourage continuing education and learning experiences which amount to more than simply passively sitting in a room. We can partner with other actuarial organizations seeking contributions from and making contributions to each other’s learning programs.
Actuarial disciplinary procedures should be made transparent and above reproach.
Provide a brief description of your professional background and the type of work you currently do and explain how these experiences have prepared you for the Elected Board Member role.
I have worked as an actuary, at the executive level, in life and health practice in four small and large stock and mutual life insurers during the first 30 years of my career.
In 2000, after leaving a large managing GA, I formed my independent consulting practice. I provide actuarial services based on my developed expertise which includes expert witness work for a number of attorneys. My practice has expanded into nontraditional areas involving intellectual property protection and new fields such as the use of genetic information to inform life and health risk.
Recently, I am the appointed actuary for a Bermuda insurer offering insurance products in the private placement market.
Overall, I have had over 50 years of work experience as an actuary – 46 years as an FSA.
Volunteer and Governance Experience
Describe how your previous volunteer, personal and governance experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board and organization.
I have been an FSA continually for the past 46 years. I have been a volunteer of one sort or another (e.g., E&E, Professionalism, governance) during nearly all of that period in both the SOA, Academy, and Actuarial Clubs.
With respect to SOA governance, I have already served 5 years on the SOA Board as a regular Director (2002–2005) and as VP (2008–2010). Prior to that I was elected to a section council. Clearly, prior Board service would strengthen future contributions to governance of the SOA as President-Elect.
I would make significant contributions to the ethical and professional aspects of the governance function having served on the AAA Committee on Professional Responsibility for 16 years 1995–2010 (as chair for six years). I also served on the Academy Council on Professionalism from 2002 - 2010.
I was asked to join the Academy Governance Task Force in 2010, a committee charged with considering and recommending changes in the Academy’s governance structure.
In the mid-1980’s I worked with a group of upstate New York actuaries to form the Adirondack Actuaries Club. I was an officer of the Adirondack Actuaries Club from 1983–1987, President from 1986-87.