2020 Board Member Candidate
Hans Wagner, FSA, FASHK
2020 has been a truly exceptional year so far, with the global challenge of Covid-19 accompanied by global reckonings following the killing of George Floyd. The importance of elections for the SOA Board pales in comparison to the coming US elections in November, but the actuarial profession can and should play a part in helping society respond to these and other challenges. As the world’s largest actuarial professional organization, the SOA must take a leading role and the Board’s job is to guide the SOA in taking its proper place. I am very excited to take on this challenge and hope you will trust me with your vote.
The SOA defines a noble mission that it has correctly framed: “Through education and research, the SOA advances actuaries as leaders in measuring and managing risk to improve financial outcomes for individuals, organizations, and the public.” We face unique opportunities to broaden the view of risk and financial outcomes to improve the resilience of society, organizations, and individual lives. The SOA has fantastic but limited resources to accomplish this mission. The most important resource is our volunteers and optimizing their use along with staff and financial resources is critical. We must build enthusiasm and gain participation from all generations in the profession, and effectively collaborate with other organizations.
The longstanding motto of the SOA is the quote attributed to Ruskin, “The work of science is to substitute facts for appearances and demonstrations for impressions.” The wording is a bit clunky and the motto isn’t used that much these days, but the underlying message is key for identifying constructive solutions. As Andy Rallis and Roy Goldman say in the SOA’s Message on Respect and Equality, “Our members and candidates value objective, data-driven analysis.” I believe this is true and bringing those values and objective analysis to bear in addressing societal challenges can be a crucial contribution.
The SOA has made inclusion a priority for a number of years and has had strong technical communications about Covid-19. We must go further in broadening analysis and communication that quantifies and objectively analyzes issues that society faces, including not only these but others such as financial inequalities, digitalization, and aging populations. While we help build greater resilience outside the SOA we must also face the challenges and opportunities for our profession posed by artificial intelligence and data science, as well as ensuring the viability of the SOA’s financial model in the post-Covid world.
It is an honor to have been selected by the Nominating Committee for the ballot of the SOA Board election. Should I achieve the greater honor of being elected, my first priority will be teaming with the other Directors to lead the staff and member volunteers in reviewing the lessons of 2020. We must revisit priorities in completion of the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan and preparation for our next strategic cycle. The promise in the current Plan to “keep actuaries at the forefront of evolving methods for solving complex business problems” will not be easy to keep. It will take active listening to and engagement with our members to complete the detailed steps needed to stay current. As the events of 2020 have shown, those steps will likely evolve rapidly.
I chose the actuarial profession because of its strong ethics and the opportunity for socially important work coupled with interesting intellectual challenges and potentially lucrative employment. The path my career has taken including over 20 years abroad from my US roots has not been what I could have expected but has always delivered on those initial attractors. My goal in running for the Board is to help set the SOA’s strategic direction to maintain and enrich the profession so that our members and society as a whole benefit. I believe my diverse background has prepared me well to help the SOA Board in these efforts; there is more detail on that background in the sections on my current work and biography.
Teamwork is essential for our success, and I have a track record of being both a member and a leader of diverse successful teams. I look forward to a fun and challenging term if I am elected to the Board.
Brief description of current work:
I am planning the next stage of my career, which I hope can include the opportunity to contribute back to the SOA at this critical juncture in our profession’s development and at this time of transition in my career. Having completed several projects for AXA while in transition from my prior role as Chief Actuary and Chief Risk Officer for ICBC-AXA Life in Shanghai I expect to have ample time to focus on my responsibilities as an SOA Board member, should I have the honor to be elected.
At ICBC-AXA I led the actuarial and risk management functions for the largest life insurance foreign joint venture in China as part of the executive management team. The Company serves individual and corporate customers in their needs for life, health, and accident protection along with savings and investments through multiple distribution channels. Actuarial team responsibilities included:
- product pricing,
- reporting and analysis including experience studies,
- solvency management,
- reinsurance management for both ceded and assumed, and
- financial projections across multiple bases (local GAAP and two flavors of Statutory, IFRS, MCEV, and TEV).
The development of the Risk Management team included:
- recruiting and developing the team from scratch,
- developing an Enterprise Risk Management function meeting shareholders’ and regulators’ requirements for scope, process, control and documentation,
- coordination of the three lines of defense and production of 2nd opinions for key areas,
- responsibility for ALM technical support, and
- supporting the Board of Directors and management in defining the corporate Risk Appetite and functional risk limits to maximize returns within the defined risk envelope and ensuring long-term sustainability of the company.
I focused on staff development and delivered internal and external training on Risk Management, ALM, product management, and economic capital. I also supported development of Chinese insurance industry through participation in regulatory working groups for solvency reform and other issues and delivery of seminars on key topics.
Primary Area(s) of Practice (per SOA Directory):
Life, Risk Management
My background includes an initial time as a high school teacher followed by actuarial work at US life companies and a major consulting firm. From there I have been fortunate to have had significant roles in Australia, Asia and Europe along with many great/rewarding volunteer opportunities. Specifically:
US Practice: I began my actuarial career at MetLife in New York, including assignments in Personal Insurance pricing, Corporate Actuarial, and Pensions valuation. From Met I moved to AMEX Life in San Rafael, California where I worked on all aspects of managing deferred annuity products sold to cardmembers. Next, I was a corporate actuary at Banner Life/Legal & General America in Maryland where I completed a number of strategic projects. From there, I joined E&Y’s Actuarial Services Group in New York and then Boston with a mix of audit support and consulting projects and eventually leading the life actuarial practice in New England.
Global Practice (Australia, Asia & France): After a decade+ of actuarial work in the US, I joined AXA’s Asia-Pacific unit in Melbourne, Australia as the US GAAP Regional Development Manager and then Chief Actuary-International with responsibility for operations across East Asia including redesigning the entire Regional Office structure and relocating it to Hong Kong. I then moved to AXA’s global headquarters in Paris (despite speaking no French at the time), where I was the Corporate Actuary in the controller’s department. My responsibilities included all actuarial aspects of external and management financial reporting including employee pensions and share-based compensation and close cooperation with Investor Relations. I then transferred to Group Risk Management where I was the Life Chief Risk Officer overseeing life product and technical risks including strengthening Variable Annuity risk management and hedging and developing parts of AXA’s Internal Model for Solvency II.
Global Practice (China): I volunteered to move to Shanghai in 2011, when AXA invited ICBC to join its existing life-insurance joint venture in China. I found irresistible the opportunities presented by bringing together the world’s largest bank with a top-10 global insurer along with a chance for my family to experience living in China. During the first year at AXA-Minmetals I managed all Finance, Legal, Actuarial, and Risk Management functions. After the official launch of ICBC-AXA I was responsible for Actuarial and Risk Management until June 2019. Combining the shareholder perspectives and working across cultures was fascinating. I then worked on strategic projects for AXA while transitioning back to France.
Volunteer Service (SOA/other actuarial organizations):
- various SOA examination and education committees including Vice Chairman of the F-385 exam committee,
- presenting at many SOA conferences/meetings both in-person and online, and meetings of the Chinese Actuarial Association, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and the French Institute of Actuaries as well as conferences sponsored by other organizations,
- writing for The Actuary (https://theactuarymagazine.org/vibrant-insurance-industry/), International Section News, and The Financial Reporter
- SOA Valuation Actuary Symposium Planning Committee,
- SOA International Section Council including as Ambassador Coordinator,
- oversaw SOA Fellowship research papers,
- ran an SOA exam center,
- SOA Adapting Education for International Markets Task Force,
- SOA China Committee and assisting coordination of the SOA China Annual Symposium,
- current member of the SOA Professional Development Redesign and Engagement Strategy Task Force.
Committee/Governance Service (Professional):
- Chair of the European CFO Forum Embedded Value Working Group
- founding Director of the Life and Longevity Markets Association
- IASB Employee Benefits Working Group
- multiple working groups for the Chinese Insurance Regulatory Commission
- training sessions for AXA SA and AXA Asia-Pacific Holdings Boards of Directors
- participation at all ICBC-AXA Board of Directors meetings.
Education: Education has been a career focus; I have developed and delivered many training programs as well as lectured at universities. In fact, before I started my actuarial career, I spent several years as a high school teacher along with roles as a coach and dorm parent.
Interests include cooking for my family, travel, rail transport, sports (following NBA, NFL and MLB in China and France is not easy with the time differences, though at least basketball is popular globally), music (I was manager of my college and high school radio stations), and history (my kids say my music interest is historical). Spending as much time as possible with my wife and our teen daughters occupies most outside work hours- something remote working has facilitated. Last year we completed a “trip of a lifetime” by train and car along the Silk Road from eastern China to Uzbekistan. My wife has been a very active Girl Scouts volunteer which has created great activities for all of us. An important part of our family is the five street cats and one dog we adopted in China to partially fill the void from the death of our 19-year-old French cat- moving the menagerie to France was challenging but rewarding.