Cynthia Thomas Edwalds, FSA 1991, ACAS, MAAA
Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:
Teaching, advising, curriculum design, outreach programs
Primary Area of Practice:
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Why do you want to be on the Board?
I am optimistic about the future of this profession, due to the high standards of intellect and integrity required to attain and retain the credentials awarded by the SOA. I am proud of my credentials and grateful for the opportunities I have had throughout my career thanks to the recognized value of the FSA designation. I believe that the leadership of the SOA has set the organization on the right path to sustain the value of our credentials and enhance the relevance of actuaries as we move into the future, and I would like to contribute to this future.
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 grateful for my 42 years of actuarial experience, including experience in life insurance and reinsurance, health insurance, P&C, and most recently as an academic actuary. I have worked as a valuation actuary, an actuarial software developer, and a research actuary, including seven years as a staff actuary for the Society of Actuaries. My experience has given me a broad perspective on actuarial work and the role of the profession.
In my current role as an academic actuary I am directly involved in developing the pipeline of talent for this profession, and I am passionate about increasing diversity in this pipeline. To this end, I created a summer program which has successfully attracted participation from a significant number of high school students from demographic groups historically underrepresented in the actuarial profession.
I am also passionate about the need for research to continue to expand the knowledge base for the profession. Both my professional background and my volunteer experiences have given me an understanding of the research process and the challenges involved with both timeliness and dissemination.
As an elected Board member, I can offer insights and ideas on initiatives and tactics to meet the strategic goals of enhancing member insight and expanding the influence of the actuarial profession through relevant and timely research and through increased diversity within the profession.
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.
My extensive experience as a volunteer for SOA research committees has given me a deep understanding of the mechanics of the research process as it operates at the SOA. This perspective could be useful during Board deliberations involving research initiatives. Through my service on both the Education and Research Section Council and the Taxation Section Council I also had the opportunity to be involved in the planning process for SOA meetings and webcasts. This perspective could be useful during Board deliberations involving Continuing Professional Development programs.
I also have a unique perspective as a transgender woman (male to female) coming out late in life. This has given me an opportunity to observe and understand the unconscious biases that create invisible and unintentional barriers to diversity. This perspective will be valuable as the Board looks for tactics and initiatives to achieve the strategic goal to increase diversity in the profession.
Please list your relevant volunteer experience. Please include the name of the organization, your role, and approximate dates
Society of Actuaries Committees:
- Committee on Life Insurance Research (member, 2001-present)
- Committee on Living to 100 Research Symposia (member, 2001-present)
- 2015 Valuation Basic Table Development Team (member, 2008-present)
- Reinsurance Section Research Team (member, 2009-present)
- Research Communications Oversight Group (chair, 2017-2019)
- VBT Calculations Subgroup (member, 2019-present)
- Committee on Knowledge Extension Research (member, 2014-2016; chair 2016-present)
- Taxation Section Council (member, 2017-2018; vice chair 2018-2019; chair 2019-2020)
- Education and Research Section Council (3 terms elected, 2003-2006, 2008-2011, 2014-2017; chair 2006, 2011)
- Joint Committee on Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity – Diversity in Leadership Work Group (member, 2020-present)
- Actuarial Teaching Conference Planning Committee (member, 2015-2017)
- Numerous research POGs, chair of many, 2001-present
The Actuarial Foundation Committees:
- Student Achievement Committee (member, 2009-2015)
- Math Motivators Steering Committee (member, 2017-2019)
Casualty Actuarial Society Committees:
- Research Oversight Committee (member, 2017-2019)
- Cyber Risk Task Force (member, 2014-2016)
American Academy of Actuaries Cyber Risk Task Force (member, 2017-2019)
Chicago Actuarial Association (officer, 2004-2007 & 2012-2014; president 2007-2012 & 2014-present)
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.
Potential ethics and transparency issues that I might face would be conflict of interest and cognitive dissonance with publicly supporting a decision with which I disagreed passionately.
Potential conflicts of interest could arise if proposals under consideration could affect my employer, DePaul University, or a client for whom I am consulting. In either case, I would disclose the conflict of interest to the board and then discuss with the SOA president whether or not I need to recuse myself from deliberations on the proposal.
In a case of cognitive dissonance with publicly supporting a decision with which I disagreed passionately, I would vent to my therapist, who has a professional obligation of confidentiality. I understand the duty of elected board members to support the decisions of the group, and I will do so.
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.
This question is difficult for me to answer because I have been an effective team member in all of my volunteer involvement, and I have been an effective leader in many of my volunteer roles.
I have served on the Committee on Living to 100 Research Symposia since 2001. I have contributed to group deliberations, both offering my own ideas and listening to the ones offered by others. I have volunteered to review submitted papers, prepared and presented discussions, and volunteered to moderate sessions in order to help the group achieve its objective of producing a high-quality event.
One recent research project for which I was the Project Oversight Group chair was the Mortality Analysis of the 1900 Birth Cohort. There was a lot of interest in this project, and we were able to recruit a sizeable and very talented group of volunteers for the POG. As POG chair, I made sure that all POG members had the opportunity to express their opinions. I also listened and tried to identify the consensus that was emerging on each issue with the design of the project. The eventual RFP was different than my original vision for the project, and clearly superior.
Describe how you stay intellectually engaged and how you will apply your personal knowledge as an Elected Board Member.
I am deeply involved in Society of Actuaries research as a volunteer on several committees and POGs. I enjoy identifying the topics for which the profession could benefit from deeper knowledge and insight and defining approaches by which such knowledge and insight could be achieved. I also give presentations at professional meetings a couple of times each year.
As an elected Board member, my background in research could be helpful, since I can offer insights and ideas on initiatives and tactics to meet the strategic goals of enhancing member insight and expanding the influence of the actuarial profession through relevant and timely research.
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.
For almost all of my volunteer involvement outside of the actuarial profession, I have become the treasurer or some similarly titled officer of the group. This includes grade school and high school parent teacher organizations, our local youth baseball and softball program, an international marriage ministry, and most recently a transgender support group. In all of these contexts I was able to provide the board with accurate financial information and recommendations to assure prudent fiscal health of the group, while making sure that all legal requirements for reporting were met.
On the SOA Board of Directors, my financial acumen will be at best ordinary, since all board members have strong financial acumen. However, I will continue to review the financial information presented to the board and make sure that I understand the trade-offs and fiscal implications of different proposals for achieving our strategic goals.