By Shawna Ackerman
While I’m not a television-watcher, I am aware of the immensely popular show “The Voice,” which brings together celebrity judges and aspiring stars. The judges are each looking for a unique voice to mentor, with the possibility of fame and fortune to the “voice” that wins.
In my time as the Academy’s president, I’ve had the opportunity and honor to represent the Academy before many different audiences. The experience has reinforced the importance of the Academy’s own role and unique voice that I see as the essential foundation for the actuarial profession’s ability both to regulate itself and make a real difference in the lives of everyday Americans, whether they hear our voices or just experience the results.
What do I mean when I say the Academy’s voice is unique? Like a human voice, we have a “voiceprint” that is identifiably ours. It reflects the public policy and professionalism mission that defines our purpose. It reflects the principles of objectivity and independence that guide our work. And it has a specific depth and character that is rooted in the composition and professional expertise of our cross-practice, broad-based membership.
We plan and organize our analysis and outreach so that it can be effective and meet our rigorous standards of objectivity and independence. A good example of this is our decision this year to change our approach on international issues to be more direct and representative of the specific needs and role of the U.S. profession.
I want to share just a few highlights of that work from the past year, and how they are helping our Academy voice be heard:
- In the pension arena, the Pension Practice Council organized visits to Capitol Hill to help raise awareness of the need to bring retirement security issues to the forefront of our national dialogue. The council hosted three Hill briefings over the summer on the deepening crisis facing the multiemployer pension plan system. And just a few weeks ago, it followed up by bringing together policymakers and retirement thought leaders for a special policy forum focused on bringing balance to pension funds.
- Health policy continues to be the focus of intense political scrutiny in a crowded field of stakeholders. The Health Practice Council consistently succeeds in breaking through the noise on these high-profile issues with highly respected and credible information. In the past year, the council’s efforts included new analyses of “Medicare for All” proposals, surprise medical billing, and long-term care and Medicaid; a Capitol Hill briefing focused on telehealth in September; and the well-regarded annual Hill visits.
- The approach of mandatory implementation of principle-based reserves is the culmination of thousands of hours of volunteer work from the Academy’s Life Practice Council over many years. The scope of the LPC’s efforts in past years, and this year, is truly impressive. In just over a month, the LPC will host its sixth PBR Boot Camp, providing useful and practical information for individuals at all levels of familiarity with the PBR methodologies and reserve requirements.
- Regulators, insurers, and the public are responding and adapting to important changes affecting the property/casualty arena. Cyber risk and wildfire risk are examples of areas where there is growing demand for an understanding of the consequences of risk. The Casualty Practice Council responded to these needs with new, topical resources. Predictive modeling is another area of change. The CPC co-presented an excellent seminar on predictive modeling with the Risk Management and Financial Reporting Council for regulators attending the NAIC’s Insurance Summit in Kansas City in June.
- Cross-practice and enterprise risks are also driving new demands for an actuarial perspective or “voice.” Big Data especially comes to mind. The Risk Management and Financial Reporting Council has engaged in making known the role or “voice” of actuaries in risk assessment with Big Data, including how our professionalism infrastructure equips actuaries to address the ethical questions raised by the use of Big Data.
- We undertook a structured, comprehensive communications campaign in our Professionalism First initiative, launched this year, to bring professionalism to life and make it resonate with daily relevance to the U.S. actuarial profession and to external audiences. This includes our new podcast series. Aptly named “Actuary Voices,” it’s available both on the Professionalism First webpage and through Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Reflecting on even just these few highlights, it’s clear that the Academy has a dynamic, distinctive and vital voice on public policy issues. The same is true for matters of professionalism, where the Academy continues to develop resources such as our exceptionally well-attended professionalism webinars.
The Academy’s new strategic plan, recently adopted by the Board of Directors, sets forth principles and guideposts for how we will continue to work together to advance the Academy’s dual public policy and professionalism mission.
“The Voice” of the Academy is strong and unique because of the cross-practice policy and professionalism work we carry on together to serve the profession and the public. This is my final Contingencies column, and I am grateful to all who have read and communicated their thoughts and reactions to my own voice in the last year.