John Dark, FSA 1979, FCIA
Actuary, Business Opportunities
Co-operators Life Insurance Company
Regina Saskatchewan Ontario
Brief description of current work:
Individual Life and Health, Reinsurance, Mergers and Acquisition, Special projects, Internal Consulting
Primary Area of Practice:
Individual Life and Health Insurance
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Professional Association Governance
Why do you want to be on the Board?
I have been involved with the C.I.A. Board of Directors for the past 11 years and have enjoyed the experience and believe I was able to make a contribution as Director, Secretary Treasurer and President. It’s now time to cast my sights wider. The SOA is both larger and more International than the C.I.A. and a significant part of the actuarial profession worldwide in which Canadian actuaries take part. I know from experience how the two organizations work together on a number of issues and I believe I can contribute to and improve this effort.
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.
My work has been at life insurance Companies (2), primarily in product development and Marketing in Individual Life and Health Insurance, Reinsurance and Group Pensions. The last 25 years have been exclusively based in Canada but prior to that (20 years) I had experience in Canadian, American. Caribbean and United Kingdom Markets. I have had roles leading teams on technical assignments as well as subsidiary companies. Obviously as a 40 + year actuary, I have had to learn how to update my skills sets and techniques and learn new things as they develop. This has led me to significantly value the work our professional associations do in the area of Continuing Professional Development.
Our profession is at a unique crossroads as unprecedented winds of change from technology and big data, in particular, must be faced head on. The actuary of the future will face quite a different future than I did when I started. I welcome the opportunity of preparing to meet this challenge.
I have also been lucky to have been involved with professional and trade associations (C.I.A. and C.L.H.I.A.) I know the invaluable contribution volunteers can make to the success of our profession and the industry. We need to maintain and reinforce our relevance to the issues emerging rapidly around us, while maintaining our emphasis on the public good.
Increasingly, our world is becoming more global and it is essential that we have strong relationship and partnership with the other actuarial professional associations around the world. My experience on the C.I.A board has introduced me to many of the stakeholders who will be an integral part of the Society’s future.
Volunteer, Governance and Personal Experience
Describe how your volunteer, governance and personal experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board, the organization, and strategic plan execution.
The C.I.A. board has prepared me for working with a diverse variety of skills, interests, and approaches from an elected Board. I have been involved setting the Code of Conduct, and the recent Governance overhaul of the Board Structure. If nothing else this helps with an understanding of the scale and timing of such changes. Of course, a plan is nothing but a document unless you can actually take it, and translate it for yourself and the members you represent into actionable items that lead to a better result. I have been involved for 11 years in just such an effort for the C.I.A.
A major challenge we face is maintaining our relevance in a changing world. Interactions with stakeholders in government industry and society have been a continual effort over that timeframe.
An increasing focus on research at the C.I.A. has led me to an appreciation of the SOA’s activities in this area.
Please list your relevant volunteer experience. Please include the name of the organization, your role, and approximate dates.
The most relevant experience in the actuarial world has been my roles on the C.I.A. Board as Director, Secretary Treasurer and President (2009 – 2020)
Ethics and Transparency
Ethics and transparency are essential to professional practice and service on the board. Discuss ethics and transparency challenges you might expect to face in your role as elected board member and describe how you would approach these challenges.
With the many challenges ahead of us and a wide variety of opinions in our membership, there is a need to balance a variety of interests. At the Board level, many things will be discussed and not all of them will necessarily be things I agree with. However, proper board membership requires listening to all points of view and to seek value in all of them even when I don’t agree or if they are in conflict with my personal or professional interests. A Board member does not and cannot speak on behalf of the board but must take part actively in all discussions. To the extent there are conflicts of interest they must be revealed.
Once decisions are made however, a member has a duty to support the Board’s decisions. Similarly, care must be taken not to reveal things of a confidential nature under discussion. At the same time it is important to seek out the opinions and interest of membership without implying anything about the Board’s possible decision.
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.
Leadership: On September 11, 200,1 I was Chairman of the CLHIA IVIC Task Force. In Canada, Segregated Fund insurance contracts are effectively regulated by this trade association task force. At that point, we did not have any provision to deal with the events of that day including the ultimate closing of stock markets. We had 17 different companies as members – some large, some small, some purely Canadian, some international. As chairman I had to lead this diverse group of interest to determine a coordinated industry wide response that all companies would take and communicate it to the various provincial regulators and to the public.
This took patience, cajoling and a few back-channel chats to achieve and I got to see the best and worst of people. However, we achieved it and the Canadian industry successfully navigated this particularly challenge.
Team member: I took part in a Task Force to develop new Guidelines for participating life insurance contracts in Canada. This involved each of us developing various parts of the guideline and then coming together as a whole to develop the final product. Wide variety of ideas and company interests but we successfully developed a guideline.
Describe how you stay intellectually engaged and how you will apply your personal knowledge as an Elected Board Member.
I have always had a avid curiosity about how and why things work and accept very little on face value.
I always find Board discussions bring out a great many viewpoints Volunteering to be part of task groups or to do projects is an excellent way to stay involved and current.
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.
Four years of Secretary Treasurer of the CIA are the best possible experience for this. Having to explain a balance sheet and income statement in dollars to people used to think in millions takes some doing. We revised a number of our accounting policies and approaches to better support our activities. For instance, we began reserving from Research instead of an ad-hoc budget, similarly for discipline expenses. We also developed a demographic model of our membership to help support planning and budgeting.