Hans Wagner, FSA 1992
Recently Chief Actuary and Chief Risk Officer
Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:
Conducting strategic analysis projects during transition period from China to France. Previously a member of ICBC-AXA’s senior management team heading all actuarial functions (valuation, pricing, reinsurance, etc) and risk management
Primary Area of Practice:
Life Insurance, Risk Management
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Financial Reporting, Capital Management, Product Pricing/Development, Investment and ALM, Valuation/Reserving
Why do you want to be on the Board?
I was attracted to the actuarial profession 30+ years ago because of its role contributing to society and helping better manage the financial impacts of uncertainty. I have tried to give back to the profession in a variety of ways while the profession is playing its broader role, and I think shaping strategy on the SOA Board is a logical progression. I can bring an unusual global perspective while reinvigorating my own ties to North America and working with folks on the Board and staff with whom it has been great to collaborate on various projects in the past.
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 a Board member, I would make decisions focused on the needs and standards of the SOA, carefully weighing member input.
Acting in a variety of roles in stock and mutual operating companies, holding companies, and as an auditor and consultant has given me the opportunity to view the importance of transparency and ethics from a wide range of perspectives. Beyond that variety of roles, living and practicing in the US, Australia, France, and China has added exposure to varied cultures and expectations on transparency and ethics, both in the profession and broader society.
I endorse the saying “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, while also recognizing the need for appropriate confidentiality and privacy. Issues can be complex, but there are appropriate means to get guidance and not face situations alone and without support, so we can maintain standards one day at a time as challenges arise while also keeping a long-term consistency.
I have faced issues where I had disagreements with the actions of direct supervisors and had to decide whether to disclose to the next layer of management, have prepared public financial disclosures, and have managed my own and my teams’ expenses and a variety of business issues.
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.
Good team members are capable of filling a variety of roles, often simultaneously.
I had multiple roles serving as the Chair of the European Insurance CFO Forum Embedded Value Working Group during the development of the European Market Consistent Embedded Value Principles. The CFO Forum draws together over a dozen insurers to improve financial reporting and regulation, with the EV Working Group supporting the CFOs. We needed consensus from a multinational group of actuaries and other professionals, supported by consultants, facing different local business and valuation practices with some focused mostly on a few markets while others had global businesses.
Leading that team required careful listening and assisting communication so that all members built a shared understanding that the approaches adopted were the best choice for the group, even if not perfectly aligned with their initial views. Not only did technical decisions need to be reached, but a rationale developed that the team would support and could gain support from outside constituents. We also had to gain approval of the CFO Forum itself, with an even more diverse group of personalities and interests. The leaders of one team are often the “grunts” of a broader team.
I also participated in crafting and delivering presentations that the CFO Forum made to the market announcing the updated Principles, as well as discussions with the IASB and various regulators within and outside Europe. While the Principles were surely not perfect, they were an important stepping stone towards improving financial and business reporting, and I am very proud of the achievements of the Working Group.
As a member of the Board, I would welcome the opportunity to build on past successes and help implement the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, while standing ready to take on varied roles on different projects as the situation demanded.
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?
AXA is a diverse global company faced with a broad range of issues and it is committed to innovation and people development so it provides many training resources to staff. Having lived and worked in the US, Australia, France and China while managing businesses in many additional markets, I have the contacts and interest that make it natural for me to stay abreast of developments internationally.
My recent roles in China as Chief Actuary and CRO required that I stay current on China’s fast-evolving market; while overall China is still a developing market its e-commerce environment is among the most advanced in the world. Finding the right marriage of approaches from other markets with the unique characteristics of China is a fascinating challenge. Throughout my career, I have enjoyed seeing how products and practices from one market can be applied in another, or what legal and cultural barriers block such cross-border application. For China news, my strong teams help me stay abreast of local developments to help overcome my language limitations.
I read a variety of general news and insurance-specific publications both in print and digital media as well as use AXA and personal networks to stay current on developments outside China. I also attend internal and external seminars as another means of staying current. I have had the opportunity to participate personally or through my teams on a variety of regulatory and professional development task forces in China, and before that was involved with the progression of financial reporting standards for both insurance and employee benefits with the IASB and the European CFO Forum. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to regularly expand into new techniques, markets, and businesses and to work with peers to enhance the contribution our profession and the insurance industry can make to society.
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.
Frugality as a positive thing is an old-fashioned concept that I learned at a young age. I continue to believe in and exercise the similar more modern concept of being a good custodian of resources, being a cautious spender of both personal and corporate resources, while recognizing that reasonable expenses are appropriate and investments are necessary. A few concrete examples are:
- driving business process re-engineering to increase efficiency and save expenses in my teams,
- in-sourcing trading grid generation for a capped volatility fund with synthetic hedging used to back a variable annuity in China,
- developing effective but cost-effective training programs to enhance performance and employee engagement while controlling costs,
- designing distribution compensation schemes to balance motivation with cost,
- setting careful priorities in systems development to deliver all necessary functions and also options that are cost-effective while avoiding spending on unnecessary options,
- while assisting my wife in her volunteer work as a Girl Scout leader, we have controlled costs by re-using materials from event to event, improved the environment with re-usable materials rather than disposables, and made using resources wisely a key theme for the girls.
As a member of the Board, I would carefully evaluate the cost and benefits of proposed initiatives to ensure the financial and other resources of the SOA are efficiently deployed. The talents and energy of SOA member-volunteers and staff are even more precious resources than finances, and must also be deployed wisely.
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.
Over my 30+ year insurance career I have worked across a wide variety of businesses and functions, as well as markets in four continents. My areas of practice have included:
- life, annuity, and health product development and pricing in multiple geographies for diverse customers through varied distribution channels,
- valuation and reporting in many accounting frameworks including US GAAP, Australian MoS, French GAAP, IFRS, and Chinese Accounting Standards as well as multiple regulatory solvency bases,
- valuation and public reporting under various value frameworks,
- general financial management,
- enterprise risk management,
- capital management,
- mergers and acquisitions,
- strategic planning, and
- employee benefits valuation and management.
I have worked for subsidiaries and holding companies, and for stock and mutual companies, with experience both in group and individual insurance. As well as working at insurers, my experience includes auditing and consulting for insurers and regulators as well as participating in a wide range of industry bodies including the CFO Forum Embedded Value Working Group, the IASB Employee Benefits Advisory Group, and being a founding director of the Life and Longevity Markets Association. While the majority of my work has been with life, annuity, and health insurance, I have done some work with Property/Casualty business as well.
I worked as a teacher for several years before starting my actuarial career, and have participated in designing and delivering a range of training programs about different subjects and for a variety of audiences.
My wide range of experiences has given me exposure to a variety of topics and situations that can be valuable to the Board governance process, being well prepared to listen and absorb the ideas of others, while contributing thoughts based on integrating my background with their input.
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.
The SOA’s richest resource is its member-volunteers. Experience across a range of volunteer activities helps in providing appropriate oversight and leadership. Over the years I have:
- served on the China Committee,
- served on the Adapting Education for International Needs Task Force,
- served on exam committees including as a Vice Chair,
- helped develop the Finance Education Track as a member of the Education Committee,
- served on the Valuation Actuary Symposium planning committee,
- served on the International Section Council,
- coordinated the Paris exam center,
- sponsored professional development projects,
- been a frequent speaker at SOA events (and events of other organizations), and
- authored articles.
There is overlap between professional and volunteer work and governance experience. Relevant experience includes:
- Chair of the European CFO Forum Embedded Value Working Group,
- founding director of the Life and Longevity Markets Association,
- working closely with the Boards of several insurers,
- Senior Management role at ICBC-AXA Life, and
- member of the IASB’s Employee Benefits Advisory Group.
Building global perspectives is an important focus in the Strategic Plan, and my skills and experiences are well suited to contributing to the Board in that area.