David K. Sandberg, FSA 2001
Senior Consultant, Charles Rivers Associates
Managing Director FTI Consulting
Advisor, SDI Refinery AI
Brief description of current work:
Consulting and Expert Witness Work.
Primary Area of Practice:
Life & Risk Management
Other Areas of Practice
InsurTech, Financial Reporting, International Issues, Research, Regulation of Insurance
Why do you want to be on the Board?
My background includes exposure to life, health, and pension practices in corporate settings that have ranged from small/entrepreneurial to a disciplined and growing mid-sized company and finally to a large, diverse international organization. Therefore, I am familiar with the professional needs and viewpoints of our varied practice areas. I was also engaged in the work to integrate and explain the value and implications of the then new disciplines of ERM, financial economics and model governance to our profession, industry and its regulators.
My volunteer experience includes interactions across professional organizations, practice areas, disciplines and international boundaries for 20+ years. My focus has often been on new and emerging areas of practice. Most recently this has included the emerging applications of big data and AI to insurance. My role as a volunteer has also included the responsibility to manage volunteer and staff resources on behalf of the profession.
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 was a vice president at Allianz Life of North America and left in 2018 after 19 years. I was the Appointed Actuary at LifeUSA, a major writer of deferred and equity indexed annuities, from 1989 until LifeUSA’s purchase by Allianz Life in 1999. Additional responsibilities have included GAAP and statutory reporting, crediting rate and investment strategies, experience analysis, government relations, and reinsurance. From 1983 to 1989 I worked for Lone Star Life Insurance and Southwestern Life Insurance in Dallas, TX, and Dorth Coombs Insurance Agency in Wichita, KS.
My background includes exposure to life, health, and pension practices in corporate settings that have ranged from small/entrepreneurial to a disciplined and growing mid-sized company and finally to a large, diverse international organization. Therefore, I am familiar with the professional needs and viewpoints of our varied practice areas. I was also engaged in the work to integrate and explain the value and implications of the then new disciplines of ERM, financial economics and model governance to our profession, industry and its regulators. Today, new ideas and societal changes have brought new challenges front and center to the profession and the SOA. Our identity and future roles as actuaries are being actively discussed and decided - we hope by us and not by others. The SOA certainly needs to sustain its traditional certification and professional development offerings while continuing to rethink their delivery, meaning and relevance in a changing social and generational context.
Lastly, now, as an LLC, I provide consulting services through Charles Rivers Associates and FTI Consulting and I am an advisor to an AI start up, SDI Refinery. These have been welcome professional opportunities, whether I have been involved in expert witness work, or helping to facilitate the next generation of innovation opportunities for insurance.
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. Please list your relevant volunteer experience. Please include the name of the organization, your role, and approximate dates.
My past volunteer experience includes:
- SOA board member
- President of the American Academy of Actuaries
- Member of the Executive Committee of the International Actuarial Association (IAA)
- Trustee for the Actuarial Foundation
- Volunteer committee work for the SOA, Academy, Actuarial Standards Board, AICPA and IAA.
My extensive experience includes interactions across professional organizations, practice areas, disciplines and international boundaries for 20+ years. My focus has often been on new and emerging areas of practice. Most recently this has included the emerging applications of big data and AI to insurance. My role as a volunteer has also included the responsibility to manage volunteer and staff resources on behalf of the profession. All of this will inform my engagement as the SOA continues to assess and inform its strategies to enhance and strengthen our profession. The success of the SOA (and the profession) requires a continued investment in dialogue, listening and governance that engages members, volunteers, staff and leadership of the SOA. The efforts of the SOA need to respect and work in parallel with the divergent and convergent goals of our employers, clients, other actuarial and non-actuarial organization and the societal needs for objective and relevant contributions.
What did you learn in the COVID19 pandemic that will help you, post-pandemic?
- The critical importance of giving context for “authoritative” information when addressing uncertainty. With a news cycle focus on polarizing headlines and easy to identify heroes and villains, I saw how easy it was for professional bodies to lose public credibility when their members were asked to communicate on topics rife with uncertainty.
- To modify a phrase, “Necessity is the mother of innovation.” Within our own profession it was gratifying and surprising to see how quickly many were able to transform the work environment and the delivery and assessment of education. Having our past routines and reliance’s “break down” opened up new possibilities for transformation.
- However, the stress of the crisis (and social tensions) also revealed weaknesses, barriers and disparities in the ability of many to access the innovations that came to be implemented.
- Living with extended periods of uncertainty about the future when one realizes that the past does not predict the future. There is a discipline that comes from accepting the challenge to work hard on today’s pressing needs even when the future has lots of uncertainty.
- What is vital versus what is superfluous? Thanks to Zoom I still found meaningful ways to worship and connect in new ways with extended family and friends, to celebrate a wedding or to honor the passing of a loved one, but also now to appreciate how rich and meaningful it is to be there in person.
- Increased appreciation for the human element of our lives beyond the work or public personas we may have shared in the past. Losses and separation were more poignant and conversations were more intimate.
Describe a constructive conversation you had in a group setting or one-on-one during which opinions varied and you needed to get to a consensus.
A helpful practice for me has been that when I hear a rush to judgement or an angry or defensive comment from others (or feel them in myself) is to reflect on what boundary or core value is seen as being at risk or may be being ignored and to then clarify my and the others understanding of the deeper, underlying concerns and values by seeking both/and instead of either/or solutions.
Back in 1999, while still an ASA, I was asked to chair an interdisciplinary Academy Committee to propose a Unified Valuation System to the NAIC. This was a controversial project eliciting concerns from P&C actuaries, mutual companies, small companies and regulators. Building a group that included participants from each stakeholder group, we first defined an ideal set of principles which we could all recommend to the NAIC. Even though the NAIC politely declined our recommendation, we continued our conceptual approach and commitment to engage with all stakeholders through the Life Practice Council. Over a 10-year period, that effort, with the engagement of over one hundred committed volunteers, was able to address all the major objections and led to the core of what became accepted and legally adopted in the last few years as PBR by the NAIC.
To motivate and influence requires a pivot from our common role of providing good answers and objective information and to instead focus on asking good open-ended questions to uncover and show our interest in the deeper needs and priorities of others.
On a more recent and personal level, I have used this practice to transition conversations about end-of-life options for my wife’s parents from denial to shared engagement.
Describe how your awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion has evolved throughout your life.
The major transition has been from assuming that all that is needed is to be “nice” and to be respectful/considerate of others. We all carry burdens and challenges, often unseen by others and I see more clearly that actively educating myself about the challenges and experiences of others is a social responsibility that also leads to a more meaningful and robust life experience. Over the last 15 years, I have engaged with and learned from organizations or discussion groups that built support for and understanding of those living with the challenges of race, mental illness, or non-binary gender and sexual orientation.
I have seen that being in a position of power through privilege (even if “earned” through hard work) can too often blind one to the experiences, challenges and barriers faced by those without power or privilege. Unless those in positions of dominance do two things, they will continue to be part of the problem. The first step is to take the initiative to educate themselves to gain empathy and understanding of the barriers and challenges of those not “seen”. The second step is the transition from using power to tell others what to do and to wrestle with how to use one’s power to create more inclusive and shared governance, growth and change processes.
That “wrestling” is not easy work and will always be a work in progress. It cannot be virtue signaled nor achieved by mandating quotas or policies or through shame or guilt. Bias is so much deeper than surface diversity. It requires vulnerability to hear, transform and invite others to accept the connection and growth that comes from valuing the emotional richness of those we have not previously included in the conversation(s).
How would your experiences strengthen your understanding of international issues?
Every situation will have unique elements to consider which can and will shape future decisions, but I would start by evaluating based on these questions:
- Is this unique to the SOA, a shared concern with a local national organization, or solely an issue for the national organizations or the employers in that region?
- What resources can or should be shared and/or partnered with?
- What will be the impact of our efforts on the local organization?
- Who are the competing priorities meant to serve - current members, future possible members, employers?
- Is the priority an expense with the need to be self-sustaining in the short run or is it an investment in building the SOA and/or the profession in that region?
- Do we have any blind spots on the board with respect to the needs or impacts being reviewed in the issue, and if so, how can we address those?
Examples of current issues include:
- Fees for exams or professional development based on US & Canadian economies may exclude many candidates and/or members from accessing those opportunities.
- We often have robust member resources in the US & Canada to sponsor and provide professional development opportunities. How can the SOA facilitate PD in those areas and possibly do so in local languages where employers may be less supportive of volunteer support?
- It is not just an issue of North American vs. everyone else. There is also the need to prioritize resources and leverage opportunities between the future possible growth areas of Latin America, Europe, Greater Asia, India, China, the Middle East and Africa.
How does the SOA need to change to meet emerging challenges and opportunities?
The first step is to agree on the challenges and opportunities. I see them as:
- Engagement & Building Community
- How to engage the “middle of the crowd” in the profession? This includes those who are paused in their almost ASA or partly FSA exam progress, so their presence and contributions are more visible. Certificate programs will be one way to address this.
- How to engage new entrants at the high school, college, and university stages to plan to enter the profession?
- How to engage with national organizations in a respectful and collaborative manner? There is a spectrum of blindness within our profession that will be influenced by geographical, cultural, racial, gender, and practice area differences. We need to make these more visible through self-reflection and the sharing of those insights.
- Role and vision of the profession – Can we sustain both skilled technicians to address today’s needs as well as build the flexibility and foresight to prepare today for tomorrow’s needs?
- Preparing for tomorrow means wrestling with the “new” ideas of AI and its appropriate usage, disparate impact and potential disruption of the traditional insurance business model.
- This includes how to signal and develop through the exam and PD process the priority to address unstructured problems and to connect and coordinate diverse viewpoints and priorities in a sustainable fashion.
- Opportunities to make a difference in the profession and in society at large
- Research is already being directed on climate change, barriers to wealth generation and access to insurance.
- We need to build organically driven communities in the SOA that can provide connection with others through shared interests beyond our specific job requirements and so they can also contribute to the further development of the profession