Your Board: Keeping a close watch

By Michel St-Germain, FCIA, CIA President

I’m always impressed to see the Board in action. It’s the Board that is ultimately responsible for the Institute. It ensures that the public is protected, understands and meets members’ needs, approves the strategic plan, delegates the implementation of the strategic plan to Head Office staff and council members, and ensures that things are heading in the right direction.

This month, I’d like to discuss how the Board contributes to the success of Canada’s actuarial profession. Whether you’re a CIA veteran or a newly minted member, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to gain a better grasp of the ins and outs of your professional organization.

A reminder on the inner workings

Let’s begin with an overview (or for some of you, a reminder) of the process. Elections are held in the spring so that the Board can turn over a third of its directors in July. Thus, of the dozen elected members, four will see their term come to an end and will be replaced by four new members. This rotational approach applies as well to the presidency. This year, the “3 Ps” consist of Marc Tardif (Immediate Past President), Jacqueline Friedland (President-Elect) and myself (President 2020–2021).

In addition, the Executive Director and the chairs of the six councils (public affairs, education and qualification, research, international affairs, actuarial guidance, and practice development) are ex officio participants, meaning they can participate in Board meetings but do not have voting rights. Some Head Office staff members also attend the meetings.

The Board establishes several subcommittees with specific terms of reference, including budget preparation and follow-up. Four annual meetings are scheduled, but special meetings can also be held. For example, recently we held special sessions to approve converting our meetings into virtual meetings and to approve renewing our Head Office lease.

Our September Meeting

As you are no doubt aware, Board meetings have been held virtually since the pandemic struck. We decided to stagger the September meeting over three half-days. What type of work takes place during these meetings? I’ll give you a snapshot of our last meeting so you can have a better idea of the range of activities carried out by our team of volunteers.

First half-day: The Board reviewed the Institute’s structure and discussed challenges and opportunities. It reviewed the Institute’s mission and examined the strategic plan: does the plan line up well with member/public expectations? The team discussed its responsibilities, ways of becoming more effective and efficient, and ways of broadening its influence with those responsible for Institute operations, namely the Head Office and the six councils. To wrap up this first half-day, the members welcomed Sharon Giffen and Dave Pelletier, two former presidents who remain active in the profession. They spoke to us about their experiences at the Institute.

Second half-day: The Board approved volunteer appointments to the various councils and committees. It followed up on a number of ongoing matters and adjusted the budget to take into account the repercussions of the pandemic. Our revenues are holding up well and our expenses have gone down as a result of our new virtual meetings format. The committees continue to support actuaries affected by the new accounting rules for insurers (IFRS 17). The Head Office moved quickly to transform our seminars and our annual conference this fall into virtual events.

Actuarial Standards Board Chair Josephine Marks presented the ASB annual report to the Board and led a dialogue on the impact of the ASB’s work on the public and the members. The ASB and the Institute are expected to meet with regulatory agencies to discuss these issues later this fall.

About the Actuarial Standards Board
The Actuarial Standards Board (ASB) is completely independent of the Institute. The standards established by the ASB are important for the public and actuaries alike. They seek to protect the public, and it is in our best interest that the public and policy-makers can have full confidence in our valuations and advice. Currently, the ASB is revising a number of our actuarial standards and managing the membership consultation process. I encourage you to participate in these consultations.

At each Board meeting, the chair of one of the six councils delivers a presentation on the activities of the council, and a discussion ensues. This time it was the Public Affairs Council’s turn to report back to the Board. The volunteers in this council are charged with formulating responses to the many consultations with public policy-makers. The team is also working on public statements relating to risk classification and pharmacare. We discussed some ways the Institute could participate in public discourse. Clearly, the Public Affairs Council plays an important role in terms of actuaries’ image in Canada. In conveying our profession’s views to decision makers, it helps influence public policy and enables us to contribute to the collective good.

The Predictive Modelling Committee also gave us an overview of the looming threats facing the profession in this area. Insurers now have easier access to data with which to analyze and support their decisions, and the emergence of new players in this field has expanded the supply of services that could compete with the work traditionally performed by actuaries. The Committee will be proposing measures, particularly in the area of education, to ensure that actuaries have a firm grasp of their role in this area of data analysis/management.

Third half-day: During this final part of our meeting, the Board broached two strategic topics. First, governance. We must ensure that the members of the Board, including the councils, are motivated and have at their disposal the information they need for effective decision-making. It must be said that the size of the Board (composed of 12 elected members, three presidents, six council chairs and Head Office members) poses a challenge. We need to review the interactions among its members. The Board’s governance committee is currently examining this and will be making recommendations to ensure greater efficiency.

Wrapping up this meeting, we discussed one final strategic issue. In June you may have read the letter on diversity and inclusion signed by the “3 Ps.” Diversity is one of the Institute’s strengths. There must be no barriers to each of us realizing our full potential. The CIA Task Force on Diversity was established, chaired by Jacqueline Friedland. It has surveyed the membership on this issue and will be announcing the results shortly. With the help of a consultant, the Board is assessing the current situation and pondering actions to be taken to foster diversity and inclusion in the profession.

Our Board is in constant flux. It is always transforming itself according to the social context and the volunteer members sitting on it. Our role with Canadian actuaries and the general public is of fundamental importance. I am very proud to be working alongside the two other presidents, the elected members, the council chairs, the other volunteers, and the Head Office staff. I commend them on their work. As far as I’m concerned, the world has never had a greater need for committed individuals willing to contribute to the betterment of our society.

This article originally appeared in the CIA (e)Bulletin.

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