By Maryellen Coggins
As readers of Editor-in-Chief Eric Harding’s “Inside Track” now know, this issue’s features all deal with technological change—a fitting dovetail with my overarching theme of renewal. After all, long gone are the cumbersome Excel spreadsheets of yore; today’s actuaries use programs like R or Python, or proprietary models, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions to crunch enormous datasets.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a powerful driver of technological change for many organizations—the Academy included. Geographically dispersed volunteers were already accustomed to meeting virtually via WebEx, but the District of Columbia’s work-from-home order beginning in early 2020 tested the Academy staff’s abilities to fulfill their duties remotely. As I’m sure you’ll agree, the staff performed admirably, shifting quickly from the in-person office to the virtual Zoom, and adopting a plethora of ways to keep in touch with each other.
As the pandemic stretched on in 2020, it became apparent that meetings that had typically been held in person—PBR Boot Camp, the Life & Health Qualifications Seminar, the Annual Meeting—would have to go virtual. Board meetings, too; we all wondered how effectively the business of Academy governance could take place given the vagaries of screen-sharing and digital hand-raising. I’m happy to report that everything went very smoothly, and the work of the Academy leadership continued apace, even amid mounting uncertainty.
Then in 2021, as Americans became more comfortable with the risk profile of meeting in person (and after the vaccines had been rolled out), “hybrid” became the name of the game. The 2021 Annual Meeting is a perfect example of what could be achieved in this new paradigm; the Academy reached new members who might otherwise not be able to attend the meeting. We were able to showcase the Academy’s thought leadership to members across the country—proffering valuable continuing education all the while.
Now in 2022, we’re all a little bit smarter … a little bit wiser. We know how to blur the background in our Zoom call for that professional look. We know to cycle off the Roomba before jumping on a call with our boss, lest she think we’re taking the meeting from a wind tunnel. And we know that an unannounced canine visitor in the frame need not derail an important pitch meeting.
In addition to tech enhancements, the Academy is undergoing some additional changes this year. As part of a more general bottom-up audit of Academy policies and procedures, the Board is undertaking a review of the Strategic Plan. Last updated in 2019, this guiding document helps steer the organization in uncertain waters. The Board expects to refresh the plan to bring it in line with the lofty ideals of the membership, and to better position the Academy as the one organization that speaks for the U.S. actuarial profession. Watch for more on this important endeavor in the near future.
Also coming soon will be a member value survey. Watch your inboxes for this questionnaire—you won’t want to miss your opportunity to weigh in: What makes Academy membership meaningful to you? How can the Academy provide more value going forward?
The Academy office just south of Dupont Circle in D.C. has several new faces these days. I’m excited that the rolls are about to increase by one more: A new director of education will soon be joining the ranks. This role will support the newly transformed Council on Professionalism and Education in providing robust and engaging educational opportunities for members.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Annual Meeting for this year. Its theme is “Envision Tomorrow”—you can bet that change will be in the offing throughout the agenda. You can learn more and register for this can’t-miss event at actuary.org/AM2022.
Yes, the spirit of renewal marches on at the Academy, through technological advancements, policy enhancements, and personnel additions. I’m glad you’re with us. If there’s anything the Academy can do to make your experience as a member more meaningful, I hope you’ll let us know.