Janet E. Duncan, FSA 2014, MAAA, FCAS
University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Santa Barbara, CA
Brief description of the type of work you currently do:
Teach one actuarial course per quarter at UCSB:
- Fundamental Actuarial Concepts (Introduction to P&C insurance)
- Actuarial Research (direct small student groups in real-world employer-sponsored projects)
Primary Area of Practice:
Property/Casualty Reserving, Property/Casualty Financial Reporting
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Why do you want to be on the Board?
I have two primary areas of interest in being on the Board. One is to continue to promote the SOA’s General Insurance (GI) Track. I have extensive experience as a General Insurance actuary and feel I am well-qualified to continue the work I have done in advancing FSA credentials for the GI Track. The second is to advance actuarial education more generally to ensure that all actuaries are able to meet the needs of employers, clients and the public. I want to build on recent changes to enhance the education process (addition of predictive analytics to the ASA and Certified Actuarial Analyst).
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?
Ethics, integrity and professionalism have always been important to me and I am thankful I learned the importance of these early on in my career as they have served me well.
I have been a regional UK/Europe CFO at XL Capital and an Appointed Actuary at CNA, XL Capital and PricewaterhouseCoopers. As such, I have had multiple occasions where I experienced varying degrees of management pressure related to earnings. I have always remained calm in these situations and justified my perspective while listening to the perspective of management. Delivering bad news is never easy, but I stand my ground and handle it tactfully and effectively.
With regard to transparency – I would point to my support of the GI track within the SOA. I am pleased to support the SOA’s initiative – despite past unpopularity with many colleagues. I do take the time to explain why I feel it’s important and worthwhile, and although I try to provide a persuasive argument for my position, I allow others to express their own disagreement without judgement.
Collaborative working relationships are essential to the governance function of the SOA Board of Directors, especially as board members work with each other, volunteers, and staff to achieve the strategic goals and mission of SOA. Describe a situation from either your professional or volunteer experiences that demonstrated you are a team player
I was fair and effective in managing staff at both CNA (30+ people) and XL Capital (50+ people). I was able to balance the needs of my staff and the needs of management to lead departments. Management frequently asked to me to join cross-functional project teams because of my ability to bring people together and execute. My rotation into the London office as CFO demonstrated the confidence XL Capital management had in my ability to fit into a new area while leading change.
I have also developed collaborative relationships with SOA staff and members since joining the SOA in 2014.
- The Strategic Planning Task Force (2015-16) was one of my first committees within the SOA and I found it helpful to learn about the organization, and rewarding to work with a diverse group of actuarial colleagues and staff. And when I now look at the current Mission, Vision and Strategy Map – I can’t help but be proud of the work we did and what it stands for.
- The SOA asked me to be one of their representatives on an NAIC Task Force to evaluate the job skills needed for a P&C Appointed Actuary. Our work was effective because we all remained focused on our goal of defining important appointed actuary job skills and not what organization each of us was representing. Others might occasionally ask me during lunch and break why I was representing the SOA – but my response was always well received and respected.
- I have been on the GI Exam Committee since 2015 and feel positive about the dedication of the committee to producing a quality exam. I believe I am constructive in keeping the committee on topic and was recently asked to become Vice-Chair of the Ratemaking and Reserving Exam committee.
Board members need to exhibit curiosity and a desire to learn about areas that may potentially impact the SOA and the profession. How do you stay informed about what is going on nationally and internationally, and how do you apply that knowledge into your work with SOA and the profession?
There are several ways I stay informed. First, I currently lecture at the University of California Santa Barbara. The introductory course in insurance concepts that I teach requires that I stay current on P&C pricing and reserving techniques, as does my participation in the GI Exam committee. As a lecturer, I also attended the SOA’s 2017 Actuarial Teaching Conference in order to hear from other academic faculty. Particularly useful was the presentation on predictive analytics for actuaries because of its relationship to our actuarial research class. One of the classes I direct is an actuarial research class for masters and upper division undergraduate students. I actively seek real-world employer sponsored projects for this class which allows me the opportunity to meet with employers to learn what they are working on and what skills they are seeking. P&C employers with whom we have conducted research include Allstate, Farmers Insurance, CSAC-EIA and CSAA. A paper that I co-authored based on one of these projects is forthcoming in Variance (peer-reviewed CAS journal).
I also serve on at least two SOA committees that keep me abreast of current events. My participation as an SOA GI representative to the International Actuarial Association (IAA) and a member of the SOA GI Research Committee give me exposure to a diverse group of actuaries and insights into both domestic and international issues. E.g., I am currently on two Project Groups reviewing research on Autonomous Cars and Predictive Analytics in Agriculture.
I have also reviewed and/or edited materials for the SOA’s textbook on General Insurance Financial Reporting, the IAA’s Risk Book, and the International Association of Insurance Supervisors’ (IAIS) core curriculum module on Non-Life Financial Reporting. Involvement across different actuarial organizations allows me to learn from others.
Respectful and prudent use of resources is an important function of all board members. Explain how you have demonstrated this characteristic in either your work or volunteer experiences and how it will carry over to your role on the SOA Board.
Resources and time are always limited – whether you are working for an employer or on a committee. My work experience as CFO leading a finance department as well as multiple experiences leading actuarial reserving functions has taught me to balance and prioritize on a regular basis. Having diversity on working teams is an important way to accomplish this. It is important to ensure that teams are comprised of many different strengths. I teach people to surround themselves with people who can complement their weaknesses rather than duplicate their strengths.
One example of my stewardship would be the initiatives produced by the Strategic Planning Task Force. The diverse group of talent understood that the SOA staff and volunteer membership do not have time to do everything. So we carefully prioritized and came up with a work plan that reflects current stakeholder needs and organizational capabilities.
Within the university we also operate with tight (almost non-existent) budgets, necessitating finding ways to perform our functions with limited resources and developing networks of volunteers.
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 am a credentialed actuary (FCAS and FSA) with over thirty years of property/casualty financial analysis experience, including commercial and personal lines reserving and pricing, actuarial opinions, financial reporting (U.S. and international), capital modeling, planning, and management reporting. I have worked as a consulting actuary (PricewaterhouseCoopers) as well as an insurance company actuary (CNA, XL Capital, and Aetna). My strengths include analytical and project management skills, leveraging information technology to improve processes and efficiencies, organization and staff development, teamwork, and communication. At both CNA and XL Capital, I effectively motivated a large staff under tight deadlines and balanced multiple priorities in a complex matrix organization. I am versatile, committed, and enthusiastic.
I retired from CNA in 2014 and since then have been a part-time Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In this role I help to educate the next generation of young actuaries, not only in technical subjects but (as we hear from employers) to prepare them for the actuarial workplace. In this role I lead courses that train students in presentation, communication and teamwork skills. As confirmation of our success in this doing so, our students have won best presentation prizes at the Actuarial Research Conference in nearly all years since they started attending. I look forward to expanding my contribution to the education of actuaries of the future on the Board.
Volunteer and Governance Experience
Describe how your previous volunteer, personal and governance experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board and organization.
In addition to SOA participation, I am currently (since 2013) on the AAA/CAS Opinion Seminar Committee which sponsors an annual seminar preparing appointed actuaries to sign NAIC property/casualty opinions. I have also, upon request, performed ad-hoc peer reviews of AAA Committee on Property/Liability Financial Reporting letters to the NAIC and Casualty Actuarial Task Force. In past years, I served on the CAS Committee on Reserves, CAS Committee on Professionalism, and CAS Exam Committee.
Within the SOA I served on the Strategic Planning Task force that developed the current SOA strategic plan (2015-16) and represented the SOA on an NAIC Task Force to evaluate job skills needed for a P&C Appointed Actuary. I continue to be actively involved in other related aspects of this initiative. I have also served on the GI exam committee for the last three years as the numbers of candidates has grown.
Within the University, I have helped grow the actuarial program and assisted students with resume writing, communication training and job search. The actuarial job market for students is difficult with the number of candidates significantly outstripping available jobs. The SOA has begun to look at this issue which I heartily support.