By Ken Kent
Though I am new to the role of Academy president, I am in no way new to participating in the Academy as a volunteer. Indeed, volunteering in our profession is personal for me.
When I look back on the areas in which I have contributed, I realize my interests have had an underlying theme. I always come back to the question of how our work—work as professionals, work with the Academy, as actuaries—is understood by the public. And at the same time, we can’t exist as a self-regulated profession without that same public’s trust.
I go back to the dream that someday when I mention I am an actuary to a group of people that I’ve just met, it ignites conversations beyond, “Oh, you’re the people that can tell me how long I’m going to live,” or, if they are more informed, “Didn’t you have a lot of hard exams to become an actuary?”
For me, there are two messages that we don’t always get out to the public as a profession:
What we do, which excites us and makes all that studying worthwhile—and all that data analysis fun.
And how our work and the standards that we apply in that work provide financial security systems that in one form or another help protect everyone in times of significant or severe financial need.
I heard someone recently say, “Increasing understanding is increasing resilience.” To me, resilience connotes sustainability and the opportunity to grow the profession.
One of the activities we have been engaged in is looking to introduce “the profession” to students who enjoy math and may not know that there is a profession out there that needs them—and an organization like the Academy ready to support them. That it is not about the path to get credentialed, but about the opportunities as an actuary to join a vital profession and make a measurable impact on the world around them. So we are looking at ways to get the profession introduced at the high school level and ways to continue reinforcing its importance for those in college.
Our opportunities as actuaries to impact financial security are growing with the speed of innovation as well as the rate of uncertainty in so many areas:
Inflation, with its impact and influence at different ends of the spectrum from increasing health care costs to de-risking pension obligations.
Climate impact, and our profession’s use of data to identify and influence the financial risks associated with the increased frequency and severity of extreme events that are affecting so many of us.
Questions about the potential long-term implications of global pandemics like COVID-19, the impact on our health care systems, cost to our economy, and potential and uncertain impact on population health and projected life expectancy.
Retirement income risk and the increasing economic gap between those who have defined benefits to provide secure income versus those who must learn to manage accumulated wealth from defined contribution plans.
New and engineered investment products being integrated in the financial support of the security systems we work with and understanding how they function in differing economic environments.
Ever-changing challenges of cyber risk, with forces constantly working to break down system defenses.
The enormous and ever-increasing data and the challenges of our profession to ensure information is being used to benefit society—not disadvantage some sections over others.
There are so many areas of uncertainty, and the Academy volunteers and staff are constantly scanning and developing work products that reflect diversity of views that ultimately produce unbiased commentary to assist our members, policymakers, and the public.
To better understand the risks and opportunities and underlying all these areas of opportunities for the Academy in delivering value to members, their employers, policymakers, and the public is our responsibility to each other in maintaining the integrity and credibility of our profession.