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Candidate Questionnaire

William B. Fornia, FSA 1986, MAAA, EA, FCA
President
Pension Trustee Advisors
Greenwood Village, CO



Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:

Consulting related to US public pensions

Primary Area of Practice:

Retirement

Other Areas of Practice/Interests:

International, Health

Why do you want to be on the Board?

  • My three years on the board have been a great experience, personally and professionally
  • I want to continue to shape the role and importance of the actuary of the future throughout the world
  • My three years of experience are a springboard for an even greater contribution 2019-2022
  • The Board and SOA staff are great to work with. I want to continue to be part of their team
  • We need more than one retirement practitioner on the Board

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?

I have demonstrated ethics in two ways. First, I have been teaching ethics for thirteen years by serving:

  • On the faculty of SOA Fellowship Admission Courses (11 courses)
  • As leading SOA Associateship Professional Courses (15 courses)
  • On the CCA Professionalism Committee
  • Teaching an ethics course at ASPPA Western Benefits Conference
  • Teaching professionalism at SOA Greater Asia Symposium June 2019

Second, my day-to-day consulting work has a critical transparency and ethics component. As consultant on US government pension issues, my work is in the spotlight through government hearings, legal testimony and many other instances subject to open records acts and discovery. My clients have been both employers and employee groups, which make it absolutely essential that I’m a courteous “straight shooter” and “tell it like it is.”

I worked in developing countries 30 years ago where ethical norms were more relaxed than commonplace today. I was successful in adhering to the strong ethical standards that we need to live by.

As a continuing SOA board member, I would bring my depth of ethics/transparency experience to the table and live by and promote such standards.  

Team Player

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.

My consulting work often requires that I function as an honest broker where I am providing service to a government body made up of representatives of very different points of view and/or political agendas. It is absolutely critical that I work in an open, honest, collaborative and objective manner to bring all parties to some broad consensus or understanding.

An example of this is where I served as advisor to the Kentucky Governor’s Work Group on Teacher’s Retirement System Funding. This group was formed to address a major funding shortfall of the pension fund. The work group was comprised of Democratic and Republican State Senators and Representatives, Governor cabinet members, and community representatives including organized labor and the Chamber of Commerce. The charge was to make recommendations on improving fiscal solvency while supporting Kentucky educators.

My role was to:

  • Educate work group members on the critical financial implications
  • Make calculations necessary to analyze various alternatives
  • Respond to questions and requests from work group members with very different points of view and objectives

The challenge was that task force members had to be confident in unbiased, objective advice from me. Furthermore, I was often asked to take sides on the solutions for reform. In order to preserve the integrity of the process it was critical that I was consistently objective and unbiased while ensuring that the key points of competing proposals be seriously considered and understood.

The result was that I succeeded in being viewed as objective from the work group. I was later engaged by one of the parties to advise them. And for Kentucky, the work group succeeded in providing a blueprint for the legislature as they continue to struggle to develop a sound pension system.

I use a similar collaborative approach in my SOA Board duties.

Intellectual Engagement

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?

As a self-employed thought leader in my niche (US public pensions), I need to keep up not only with actuarial matters, but various changes in the laws and trends in US state and local governments. Fortunately, I am very often asked to speak at important conferences and events, from organizations such as

  • The Federal Reserve
  • National Council on State Legislatures
  • American Bar Association
  • The Conference Board
  • International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
  • American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
  • National Association of Public Pension Attorneys
  • Government Finance Officers Association
  • National Association of State Retirement Administrators

But more important than being well connected with other thought leaders, the critical component of learning is simply doing my homework. In addition to relevant actuarial publications, I read Wall Street Journal daily; The New York Times and Economist weekly, and trade publications such as Pension and Investments, NASRA News, and GFOA Update. I appear to be successful because I am often contacted by reporters for my insight on key issues.

My public speaking experience includes major actuarial organizations (SOA, CCA, EA, ASPPA) and internationally in Brazil, Malaysia, Hong Kong and England. I have published two widely cited papers on pensions and several other articles and papers.

I serve as chair of the Board’s International Committee, requiring even more international knowledge. Each week, I read at least 2-3 articles on financial issues in other countries. Having worked as an actuary in Brazil—and regularly traveling there—I continue to be very interested in their economic and political issues, which requires regular reading of relevant information.

My Board service has increased the demand on my time to stay apprised on additional SOA issues, particularly in my first year. I have continued to keep up on these issues as well as those central to my consulting practice.

Stewardship

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.

The obvious arena where I’ve been prudent in use of assets and resources is with my own firm, Pension Trustee Advisors, which I founded in 2010. This constantly requires evaluation of where to spend money and allocate time in order to produce strong financial results. Although PTA’s revenue is primarily my own consulting time, I frequently use subcontractors which require key decisions on how to provide excellent client service economically and fairly. Since the primary PTA resource is my time, I’m often evaluating my time spent in speaking engagements and other non-revenue activities. For example, I estimate that the time that I have spent on the SOA board (more than 350 hours per year) has crowded out about $150,000 of annual revenue. Notwithstanding this financial sacrifice, I am committed to continue to make this investment which will have immeasurable personal value and professional value.

In addition to the stewardship of PTA, I ran a more than $1 million retirement practice of a local consulting firm for several years. I was on the Enrolled Actuaries Program Committee for eight years, where the finances were critical measures.

And of course, each client assignment requires diligent detail and communication so that my clients get “their money’s worth”. My engagements regularly have updates of their consulting fees so that they have no surprises and are satisfied that their moneys are being put to good use. My clients are often extremely sensitive to their costs, whether being a government entity with tremendous scrutiny or a collection of retirees on a fixed income. I must earn their trust that I have their best interests at heart and am sensitive to their financial concerns.

I will continue to incorporate my fiscal prudence as SOA board member.

Professional Background

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.

FSA 1986, EA 1984, FCA 2005, BA Mathematics Whitman College 1980

I founded Pension Trustee Advisors to provide consulting on US state and local government employer retirement benefits. Previously, I was senior vice president of Aon Consulting, leading their public-sector retirement plan actuarial consulting practice and a lead consultant at other major firms in the US and Brazil. I was Boeing corporate actuary from 1980-1984. My current expertise is the analysis and design of postretirement benefits.

Clients include pension funds, government entities, banks, insurers and unions. I have testified before ten state legislatures, several city councils, and Federal Court as expert witness.

Since being a summer student in a group health department of an insurer forty years ago, through dozens of years at major consulting firms, working abroad, as corporate actuary, and starting PTA, I have tremendous breadth of experience. Three years on the SOA Board has rounded out some of my gaps.

I understand the perspectives of many of our members through this experience plus dozens of FACs and APCs. My day-to-day consulting is often with Boards and staffs of entities with structures similar to SOA. I understand the dynamic between SOA staff and Board which has also been helpful. My international experience has helped me in my role as chair of the Board’s International Committee.

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.

I have extensive volunteer experience, primarily with actuarial organizations, including:

  • SOA Board member 2016-2019
  • Secretary - Seattle Actuarial Club 1986
  • SOA exam committee for two years in the 1990s shortly after returning to the US from Brazil.
  • 1993-2000 Enrolled Actuaries Program Committee (including serving as Vice-Chair), which required more than a ten day per year commitment
  • CCA Professionalism Committee for two years
  • AAA Public Plans Subcommittee and following my term limit, continue as an interested party
  • Currently on the CCA Public Plans Community Steering Committee, and previously was Vice-Chair
  • Faculty for Fellowship Admission Courses and Associateship Professionalism Courses for nearly thirteen years.
  • Speaking at actuarial conferences more than 2x`x`0 times
  • Formal presentations on actuarial subjects to non-actuarial audiences more than 200 times

My governance experience is not specific to actuarial organizations. Much of my consulting work has been to pension boards, and some has included training on board governance issues for pension boards conducted by my colleagues and me.

My exposure to board governance through dozens of organizations plus my actuarial volunteer experience helped me hit the ground running as an SOA board member. Today my broad perspective of SOA and other issues strengthens my Board contribution.