Ronald L. Klein, FSA 1987, MAAA
Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:
Run the life insurance association in Bermuda
Primary Area of Practice:
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Reinsurance, Risk Management, Product Development
Why do you want to be on the Board?
The Society of Actuaries is a dynamic and expanding organization that needs strong leadership to achieve its objectives as stated in the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan. It also needs Board Members who are not shy about expressing opinions that may be contrary to the majority positions. As a former Board Member, I often expressed differing views which helped the organization become more diverse and dynamic, in my opinion. I also loved learning views of others – all with the goal of bettering the SOA. I want to continue to give back to the organization which gave me so many opportunities.
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 career began in 1980 at Mutual of New York where I became a Fellow in 1987 and ended with dual responsibilities of being the reinsurance officer and the actuary in charge of agent compensation. My Mutual of New York colleagues remain some of my closest friends as we helped each other pass through the exams, improve computer programs and deal with difficult tasks. The next stop was Life Re which was a small US reinsurance company that trademarked the term Admin Re. It was purchased by Swiss Re where I became the Global Head of Pricing located in London. My biggest achievement there was structuring the Vita mortality bond, for which I hold the patent. After Swiss Re, I became the head of life reinsurance for AIG. After AIG, I moved to Zürich and became the head of life reinsurance for Zurich Insurance Group. In 2016, I decided to join The Geneva Association as the Director of Global Ageing. This allowed me to perform research into global life and retirement issues. I joined the life insurance association in Bermuda (BILTIR) as the Executive Director in 2018 in conjunction with my research position. Now I have my own consulting company with BILTIR, The Geneva Association and others as clients. My positions have allowed me to travel the world and learn about new cultures, new products and new ideas. This opened my mind to seeing things differently, which is an important skill to have as a Board member.
The best preparation for being a Board member, however, is serving on the Board – which I did from 2014 - 2017. I learned to listen carefully to the opinions of others as there are many intelligent people on the Board that continually challenge me and the Board.
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.
Since becoming a fellow in 1987, I have always volunteered for the SOA. Currently, I am co-chair of the ReFocus planning committee and I am the only person to have served on this committee for the full 14 years. This event has grown in attendance and sponsorships each year and nets the SOA and ACLI about USD 1 million. The reason for its success is the dedicated committee that has to work well together. We delegate work and trust each other; we challenge each other’s ideas; we ask for help; we trust the SOA and ACLI to do their parts. This translates well to being a Board member – working well together, challenging each other and trusting each other.
I also was asked to work with the Actuarial Foundation in its recent drive to raise USD 5 million. This is a much different skill set – that of persuasion. It is sometimes difficult to phone colleagues and ask them to donate. But, if you really believe in the cause, it becomes easier. The skill of persuasion is also an important asset to bring to the Board, especially when dealing with other organizations or country officials in achieving the Strategic Plan.
Please list your relevant volunteer experience. Please include the name of the organization, your role, and approximate dates.
- Actuarial Foundation, Campaign Leadership Team, August 2019 – Current
- SOA Board, member, 2014-2017
- ReFocus Programming Committee, Co-Chair, 2007 – Current
- Cross Creek Condominium, Board Member, 1999 – 2002
- Stamford High School, financial teacher to minority children, 1995 - 1998
- SOA Exam Committee, Chair, Vice Chair, Committee member, 1988 – 1998
- New Jersey Little League, Coach, 1987 – 1992
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.
When representing an organization in a volunteer leadership role, one may be faced with decisions that could be best for the organization, but may not be best for the representative or his/her own organization. This did happen to other Board members during my prior service. There are some that can either recuse themselves from decisions or vote from the SOA perspective only. On one occasion, I felt that a Board Member acted in his own best interest rather than in the SOA’s best interest. I brought this to the attention of the Executive Director and to the President after first discussing with the offending party.
For me, this has never been an issue. I was raised to have a high moral bar. If a topic was raised that even had the appearance of an ethical issue, I would recuse myself from the vote. However, if I felt that the SOA was heading in a direction that was unethical, I would voice my concerns loudly. My understanding is that some issues had occurred prior to my time on the board. It is important that when issues do occur, the by-laws are followed carefully and legal advice is sought.
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.
Being a good team member sometimes means giving up on your own ideas and going with the consensus. During one of our ReFocus meetings, someone suggested that we have MFS (name withheld) as a keynote speaker. I didn’t think that she would be acceptable however, others disagreed. We decided to invite her as a lunchtime speaker.
While I disagreed with the decision to ask MFS to present, the lunchtime slot is less than ideal. I argued that since we agreed to have her, why not give her the prime spot on Monday morning. All agreed and she turned out to be one of the most highly rated speakers at any ReFocus Conference. I called MFS after the conference and apologized (even though she never learned of my concerns) and we have become great friends and colleagues. I also gained the further respect of my fellow committee members.
While at Life Re in the 1990s, we were faced with an ugly arbitration with a client. Instead of providing the requested information, the company boxed up all files. One of their lawyers was sitting in the room and monitoring our conversations as well. Faced with 2,000 boxes and a small room, our team was bewildered. Some wanted to contact our President or our lawyers and cry foul. Others wanted to leave. While not the most senior person in the room, I decided to take charge. I suggested that we simply dive in and look through the boxes for relevant information. Perhaps the documents we need will be easy to find. This calmed down the troops as we rolled up our sleeves and began work.
Many of the boxes were immediately dismissed and relevant documents were easy to find. We completed our review in the allotted time and proceeded to win the arbitration.
Describe how you stay intellectually engaged and how you will apply your personal knowledge as an Elected Board Member.
Whether it is solving the daily NY Times crossword puzzle, playing Mastermind with the family, working with clients to create alternative technical arguments against the OECD proposed Digital Tax or negotiating with the Bermuda Monetary Authority to create a better method to give credit for sound asset/liability management, I have always enjoyed a good intellectual challenge. However, I do not think that this is unique in a pool of actuaries.
What is unique is the way I tend to approach challenges. There are times that I see problems differently from others, with practical solutions. While on the SOA Board, we were posed with the problem that employers were hiring non-actuaries to fill roles in predictive analytics. Other Board members were saying that actuaries were the best data scientists, but I was not convinced and neither were employers, obviously. I proposed the idea to give a grant to actuaries who placed highly in Kaggle competitions.
As the Chair of the Reinsurance Section, I was posed with the problem that our reserve fund was too large. The Reinsurance Section Council proposed to have more meetings or lunches or dinners. This would only add to our problem and make more money. I proposed the LEARN program which educates regulators about insurance and reinsurance (a program that is ongoing).
The best example of my approach is when the SOA Board was approached by another actuarial association with an offer to merge. Each board member expressed their concerns and wanted to move slowly. I suggested an alternative – to move quickly and strike will the iron is hot. The faster we proceed, the better chance of completing the deal. Many of the Board members changed their minds and agreed with me. Even if the Board rejected my suggestion, it at least opened people’s minds.
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.
When I began working for Life Re, there was some culture shock. My previous employer was a very large mutual life insurance company with standard procedures for everything. In my new role, I would travel a lot and entertain clients. However, there was no expense policy. The President said that the expense policy is simple – spend it like it is your own money. This has become my life motto.
While on the Board from 2014-2017, I consistently challenged the SOA staff on it use of external consultants (please speak with Greg to confirm). SOA funding is limited and the money belongs to the membership. We should be careful in spending money and the time of staff employees. This is one of the roles of the Board – to provide strategic direction to the staff.
When I was first hired at AIG, I was told that there was an open position that was funded. I discussed with my boss that I would first like to learn what needs to be accomplished and what everyone does. After 6 months I realized that the open position did not need to be filled. Just because there is budget available, does not mean that you need to use it.
However, making sure that people have all of the support that they need is also a prudent use of resources. Partially funding projects could result in a bigger waste than fully funding the project. Being too frugal could end up costing more. To me, this is one of the meanings of “duty of care.” This is why I decided to allocate my IT budget to my actuarial team instead of the management team. The people doing the real number crunching were much more in need of updated equipment. This improved moral and efficiency.