James C. (Jim) Berger, FSA 2002, MAAA
Overland Park, KS
Brief description of current work:
I have responsibility for the economic capital calculation of the insurance enterprise along with other risk management efforts
Primary Area of Practice:
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Long-term care insurance, reinsurance
Why do you want to be on the Board?
My SOA experiences as a section council member and chairman, a member of numerous project oversight groups, a participant in educational curriculum design, and many opportunities producing and speaking at conferences have afforded me a strong view of the organization from many angles. I specifically hope to contribute to membership engagement and strategic planning. I am a person of intellectual curiosity with diverse interests which can bring insights that benefit the profession. I am passionate about the profession and in strengthening its 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.
FSA (2002), MAAA (1995), M.Math., University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (1992).
I have been privileged in my professional experience to work for insurance companies and consulting firms; direct insurance and, for the last 16 years, reinsurance; life, health, and risk management; in management and as an influencer. Having practiced in many aspects of the actuarial profession, I have seen where initiatives of the SOA impact the day-to-day work of the actuary while preparing him or her for future roles, as well as preparing future actuaries through its educational process.
In all professional engagements, keeping the principal’s interests at the forefront is paramount. If elected to the SOA Board, I would welcome the opportunity to do the same by advancing the interests of the actuarial community.
The competing interests of those within a company must be sorted and prioritized which is never a trivial task. Clear direction must be given, and progress measured. My experience in both management and now as an internal influencer has developed the skills to work with people with differing perspectives and competing goals. I expect the SOA Board to be no different.
My opportunities in seeing the many aspects of any organization including the SOA allows for broad thinking and potentially creative solutions. My diverse background allows me to better see the ramifications of strategic initiatives.
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 volunteer engagement with the SOA has been broad: section leadership, research oversight, writing articles and a book chapter, educational curriculum, and producing conference sessions and speaking.
I have non-SOA volunteer board experiences that include a food bank, a Southeast Asia-focused relief organization, an arts organization, and a martial arts school with significant focus on disabled participants. I have learned and led in strategic thought, financial accountability, and leadership in difficult situations. In two of these volunteer experiences I functioned as chairman.
Please list your relevant volunteer experience. Please include the name of the organization, your role, and approximate dates.
- Long-term Care Insurance section of the SOA (2011-14), Chairman (2012-13)
- Intercompany Long-term Care Insurance Conference, Actuarial Track Chair (2001-2004)
- Regular producer and speaker at SOA and ILTCI conferences
- Numerous Project Oversight Groups
- Produced LTC Predictive Analytics seminars following ILTCI conference (2016-18)
- FAP curriculum committee (2019-20
- Published articles in section newsletters
- Participated in the French-American Long-term Care Insurance discussion (2015-18)
- Wrote chapter for Actuarial Aspects of Long Term Care (published 2019)
- Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank (1990-92), board member
- We Love Kids relief (2012-present), board member, Chairman (2015-present)
- The Culture House arts organization (1997-2000), board member
- CHAMPS Achievers Foundation martial arts school (2008-present), board member
- The Statesmen Group, an informal public policy network, 2013-present, Executive Council (2018-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.
As a board member, the responsibility to the organization and its members is foremost. Any agenda items must always be viewed primarily in this regard while respecting the diversity of thought that can surround any issue. Personal agendas are to be left aside for the good of the organization.
Disagreements are a routine part of any organization. Dealing with these situations in an open and honest manner will give the best opportunity to find the optimal solution. The profession and the insurance industry are predicated on trust.
Timely and appropriate communication to and discussion with members will enhance the transparency of the organization and increase the members’ trust. At the same time, the confidentiality of internal discussions must also be respected.
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.
As a member of the Long-Term Care Insurance section council of the SOA, it was important to participate and bring ideas to the group. Besides the regular calls, I worked between calls to advance the section agenda, for example, through preparing for discussions on industry experience studies and by recruiting new council candidates. I look for places that are inadequately served and then seek to see that the needs are met.
The Intercompany Long-Term Care Insurance conference is a significant event each year, one the LTCI section council fully supports. I have participated in speaking and producing sessions at almost twenty of these conferences and have continued to do so past my term on the section council. As well, I was the actuarial track chairman for four years which involved setting the agenda with a group of other interested actuaries, marshalling the producers, and assuring the program was of the highest caliber.
When the third-year council members were unable to take the role as chairman, I stepped up as a second-year chairman. In the chairman role I was responsible for leading the development of goals for the year in concert with the other council members, setting the monthly agenda toward the goals, assuring that regular functions such as the newsletter and meeting sessions were covered, and interfacing with external parties that came to the SOA regarding LTCI information. Listening to the other council members and helping to advance their agenda items was a crucial element of the role. One focus I elevated during my tenure was the need for all council members to either write newsletter articles or solicit articles. Each person was responsible for at least one article each year.
Describe how you stay intellectually engaged and how you will apply your personal knowledge as an Elected Board Member.
In my risk management capacity at work, I am responsible for thinking in all aspects of the business. This keep s me in a learning mode regarding insurance.
My reading list is broad with topics of direct actuarial interest (predictive analytics, banking systems) and otherwise (history, an autobiography, and a classic in psychology). My news sources are from diverse perspectives and nations including Canada where I lived many years. I seek out relationships with others who are intellectually curious. The SOA Board would be another chapter in the same book.
As discussed regarding my time on the LTCI section council, I look for places where there is a void and seek to fill it with appropriate solutions with long-term applicability. By considering many facets of a problem, better solutions clearly surface. Through wide-ranging interests, I access disparate concepts that may lead toward a solution that isn’t initially apparent when considering the problem head-on. I value the diverse thought of those around me, as it pushes me to consider options toward which I may not have naturally gravitated.
As the SOA works in both North America and Asia, the need to be aware of the multi-cultural aspects of the mission are critical. My relationships with those who walk these paths has given me empathy and insight.
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.
As Treasurer for CHAMPS Achievers Foundation, I kept the board apprised of our financial status while working with the board on decisions such as a new location and the associated rent and other expenses. Annual fundraising was required which typically occurred through events with that specific purpose.
As Chairman of We Love Kids, I give guidance to the whole board with respect to financial decisions of the organization. This may involve salaries, unusual benefits, or other resource spending. These recommendations are made in conjunction with the executive director.
When leading the long-term care insurance actuarial function for my employer, I allocated team members’ time and negotiated financial budgets for items such as software and salaries.
Having clear objectives is always important in stewardship. Is the expense related to the strategic goals of the organization? Is the scale big enough to accomplish the goal but not so big as to overwhelm the staff?
While producing conference sessions and leading the actuarial track of the ILTCI, I have always worked to have the highest quality sessions with the best prepared speakers. I did not assume the producers and speakers were doing what they were tasked to do but always reviewed their progress and slides, not to micromanage, rather to assure that the goal of a top-quality session was achieved.