Janet E. Duncan, FSA 2014, FCAS, MAAA
University of California at Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA
Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:
Teach one actuarial course per quarter at UCSB:
- Fundamental Actuarial Concepts (intro 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 GI actuary and feel I am well-qualified to continue the work I have done in advancing FSA credentials for the GI Track. 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 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 was 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 pressure related to earnings – both internal and external. I have always remained calm in these situations and justified my perspective while listening to the perspective of others. 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 proud to support the SOA’s initiative – despite past unpopularity with some 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 advance the direction of the SOA. We need both leaders and team members. Describe a situation from either your professional or volunteer experiences that demonstrated where you can be effective in each of these roles.
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 management to effectively lead departments. Management frequently asked 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 members and staff 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. When I look back at the Mission, Vision and Strategy Map, I am proud of the work we did and what it stands for.
- The SOA asked me to be a representative on an NAIC Task Force to evaluate job skills needed for a US P&C Appointed Actuary. Our work was effective because we all remained focused on our goal of defining important appointed actuary skills and not which organization each of us was representing. Others might occasionally ask me 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 am constructive in keeping the committee on topic and was asked to become Vice-Chair of the Ratemaking & Reserving Committee. Also, I recently became GO for the GI Curriculum Committee and joined the ERM Extensions Curriculum Committee as a GI representative.
Board members need to exhibit curiosity and a desire to learn about areas that may potentially impact the SOA and the profession. How will you apply that knowledge as an elected Board Member?
There are several ways I stay informed. First, I lecture at UC 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 and the GI Curriculum Committee. 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.
In addition to GI Exam Committee, I also serve on other SOA committees that keep me abreast of current events. E.g., my participation as a member of the SOA GI Research Committee gives me exposure to a diverse group of actuaries and insights into both domestic and international issues, e.g., autonomous cars, predictive analytics in agriculture, and cyber risk.
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. And I am currently reviewing syllabus readings for GI ERM Extension Curriculum Committee. Involvement across different actuarial organizations keeps me current and busy!
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 a 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 diverse 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 SOA’s 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 budgets, necessitating finding ways to perform our function with limited resources and developing networks of support and volunteers.
Provide a brief description of your professional background and the type of work you have performed and explain how these experiences have prepared you as an Elected Board Member and qualify you in carrying out the strategic direction of the SOA.
I am a credentialed actuary (FSA and FCAS) with over 30 years of property/casualty financial analysis experience, including commercial and personal lines reserving and pricing, actuarial opinions, US and international financial reporting, 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 have high standards and 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 also train students in presentation, communication and teamwork skills. As confirmation of our success in doing this, our students have won best presentation prizes at the Actuarial Research Conference in nearly all years since they started attending. I look forward to the opportunity to expand my contribution to educating future actuaries on the Board.
Volunteer and Governance Experience
Describe how your volunteer, personal and governance experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board, the organization, and strategic plan execution.
In addition to SOA participation, I recently joined the AAA’s Committee on Property/Liability Financial Reporting (COPLFR) and am currently on the AAA/CAS Opinion Seminar Committee which sponsors an annual seminar preparing appointed actuaries to sign NAIC property/casualty opinions. Prior to becoming a committee member, I have also upon special request, performed ad-hoc peer reviews of COPLFR letters to the NAIC and CASTF. 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, developing the current SOA strategic plan, and represented the SOA on an NAIC Task Force to evaluate job skills needed for a US P&C Appointed Actuary. I continue to be actively involved in promoting growth of the FSA GI Track. I have also served on the GI Exam Committee since 2014 as the number of candidates has grown.
At UCSB, I have helped grow the actuarial program and assisted students with resume writing, communication training, and job search. The actuarial job market for graduating students is difficult with the number of candidates significantly outstripping available jobs. The SOA continues to look at other opportunities which I heartily support.