Robert Eaton, FSA 2009, MAAA
Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:
I consult with long-term care and life insurance companies on pricing, product development, M&A, and valuation work.
Primary Area of Practice:
Long Term Care (LTC), Life Insurance
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Predictive Analytics, Financial Reporting
Why do you want to be on the Board?
The work that the SOA does is critical to the future of our profession, and I believe the actuarial profession is a positive force for our society. I want to participate in executing the strategic plan for the SOA. I think I would make an effective Board member given my leadership and volunteer record.
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?
As an actuary we must act with integrity, skill, and care on behalf of our profession in our obligation to society. This responsibility supersedes our obligation to our employer or to a client. A working actuary must reflect this precept in their everyday duties. As a Board member I would represent the SOA directly, further internalizing this responsibility.
Transparency in our professional work is a bedrock of actuarial communication. Transparency in my daily life produces better relationships with those around me. I believe that transparency builds trust among colleagues. As an SOA Board member, I wish to continue to earn the trust of other Board members, SOA staff, and the SOA membership. I would conduct myself openly and honestly, understanding that stakeholders will scrutinize my actions and reasons. In this way, the stakeholders of the SOA Board can be confident that the Board members are acting in their best interest.
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.
The SOA asked me to be the chairperson of the Long-Term Care Reputational Risk Task Force in 2018. This Task Force met for many months and presented recommendations to the SOA Board for the Board’s consideration and vote. The Task Force consisted of highly skilled, well-respected, and experienced LTC actuaries. We developed a set of recommendations from scratch and the Board accepted most of them. My leadership in this process took the form of consensus building among Task Force members who sometimes held disparate views. To gather consensus, I held many phone calls individually with members to collect their thoughts, to show them that I considered their input valuable, and to suggest conclusions that each could support. I also devoted considerable time and took a prominent role in producing our final product. I believe in leading by doing to inspire those on our teams.
I also served as a team member on a large inter-office project at my company. The project plan was not what I would have developed on my own, and the team had not worked together that much in the past. To facilitate smooth operation, particularly with people in different locations, I communicated more frequently via email. I picked up the phone to have short calls, which is often more efficient and breeds better working relationships. I actively listened to teammates as we coordinated our own project workstreams, and asked clarifying questions as needed. These skills were useful in producing effective results when coordinating a team consisting of different perspectives. I approach team projects holding a respect for the perspective of team members.
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?
If we wish to have a better understanding of the world around us, we must cultivate the information we take in. This is particularly true in an era where information is omnipresent. Separating the signal from the noise is more difficult than ever. The environmental scanning process in the webcast was presented as the genesis of our strategic plan. I am interested in learning more about the scanning process and how we can continue to refine it.
In my professional role, clients continuously present me with dilemmas and ask me for solutions. Various stakeholders represent different perspectives for me to consider (e.g. regulatory, company, policyholder, societal). To support my clients, I expose myself to new ideas and force myself to learn new concepts through research and study. I am responsible for seeking out new knowledge that will influence my clients. I can apply this skillset as an elected Board member to the benefit of the SOA.
I firmly believe that the SOA must stay on top of—and anticipate—environmental trends. Societal and macroeconomic changes impact the way risk is managed. Actuaries risk being devalued as professionals if we cannot demonstrate our past and future relevance. This is a key consideration in setting the SOA’s strategic plan.
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.
I served as chairperson of the LTC Section Council in 2018. Our Section Council voted in many instances whether or not to spend resources (usually volunteer time, or Section Council funds) on projects. Part of my responsibility as a steward of the Section Council resources was to complete due diligence in advance of these Section Council decisions. This due diligence included laying out all of the considerations for the use of Section Council resources, including:
- Does the project fit within the mission and vision of the Section Council?
- What are the opportunity costs of using resources for this project, and not others?
- What precedent does this set for the Section Council for future activities and decisions?
- Is the project scope too expansive, or not expansive enough?
I sought buy-in from my leadership team before bringing decisions before the larger Section Council. I will bring these practices and behaviors to the SOA Board if elected.
I believe another important element of stewardship is a respect for the spirit of the organization. I expand more on this in my response to the ‘Volunteer, Governance, and Personal Experience’ question below.
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 worked in the health insurance field for the first 5 years of my career. Following that, I have worked in life and long-term care insurance. My roles have included pricing, product development, health care trend analysis, corporate finance, an Appointed Actuary role, merger and acquisition work, and predictive analytics. I have managed teams of people and I am a part of our practice’s senior staff.
The strategic direction of the SOA applies to all members, though it affects disciplines in different ways. My professional background is diverse both in fields of study and in roles that I have played. I believe this diversity of experience gives me a better understanding of the concerns of a large share of the SOA membership. This will be a strength should I be elected to the SOA Board.
I have worked with a variety of professionals, both actuaries and otherwise, to carry out business plans and meet the needs of our stakeholders. This experience has taught me the importance of relationship building and I have developed this skill over many years. I believe this is critical to the position of the SOA Board member.
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.
My volunteer experience includes my prior work with the SOA (the LTC Section Council, the LTC Reputational Risk Task Force, exam writing, exam grading) as well as work in organizing and executing the Intercompany Long-Term Care Insurance Conference (the ILTCI). In both of these organizations, I have served as a volunteer team member, executing the direction of a governing body. I have also served in both organizations in a governance role, executing the organization’s strategic vision.
When stepping into a new role it is always useful to understand how the current state of affairs came about. I gain this understanding through collaboration with others who were part of that history, and by asking plenty of questions. This understanding of an organization helps avoid duplicating past mistakes (both operational and philosophical) —and facilitates advancing the organization to its next phase. Seeking this understanding shows respect and curiosity, and helps the volunteer appreciate the spirit and culture of the organization. This deeper understanding allows us to affect greater change in an organization.
As an elected Board member, I wish to understand the spirit and the culture of the SOA better in order to execute our strategic plan.