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Hélène Pouliot looks ahead to her term as CIA President

Hélène Pouliot, FCIA, began her term as CIA President on July 1, 2022. In this episode, we talk to Hélène about her priorities, the initiatives we can expect to see, and what she’d like to accomplish during her year as President.


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Fievoli: Welcome to Seeing Beyond Risk Podcast, a podcast series from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. I’m Chris Fievoli, Staff Actuary, Communications and Public Affairs at the CIA.

The end of June marks the time when CIA leadership changes over. So, in today’s episode, we will be speaking to Hélène Pouliot, who begins her term as CIA President, succeeding Jacque Friedland.

Thanks very much for joining us today.

Pouliot: Thank you, Chris.

Fievoli: To start off, can you tell us a bit about your past involvement with the CIA as a volunteer leading up to becoming President?

Pouliot: Well, my involvement with the CIA as a volunteer goes back many years. I believe 1991 was the first time when I became a member of the Program Committee. After that, I joined a number of committees and task forces, including the Committee on Life Insurance Financial Reporting and the Committee on Risk Management and Capital Requirements.

I also serve on our Tribunal Panel. I remember chairing the Member Services Council – which doesn’t exist anymore, but at the time was an important council – and I sat on the Actuarial Guidance Council. After that, I was elected to the CIA Board on three occasions as a Director, and I’m very proud to say that I was awarded a Gold Award in recognition of my volunteer career with the Institute.

The profession has given me so many opportunities to do interesting work while being very well remunerated, so I felt it was time for me to give back, and, as President, try to influence the future path of the CIA.

Fievoli: Let’s talk about some of the things that you’d like to focus on. I know that you’ve mentioned that member engagement is a priority for you, and we certainly need to continue to deliver on our member value proposition. So, what are some of the things you see doing in this area over the coming year?

Pouliot: Well, two weeks ago, we held a strategic planning discussion with the Board and other CIA leaders to identify where our priorities should be for the next three years, and we agreed on a very short list of items. And those items included the delivery of member value proposition and membership engagement.

To increase member value proposition, we feel that we need to provide more knowledge-based services and products. So, for example, we’re working on the new education pathways for the next generation of actuaries, and we believe that this new program will allow greater flexibility for the CIA to adapt the education, as the actuarial science evolves, and the needs of our stakeholders evolve.

The new program will allow us to be more proactive and innovative and will help us preserve the CIA’s brand as the Canadian qualifying body for actuaries. So that’s for our new generation.

For our next generation of actuaries for our current members, the Research Council has developed a plan to increase research projects in certain strategic areas and which include aging and retirement, health care, property and casualty, and emerging practices such as predictive analytics and climate change. To do so, the Research Council will work closely with external parties in order to deliver best-in-class products in a timely manner.

In addition to those, we’ve also created the Climate Change and Sustainability Steering Committee, reporting directly to the Board. This committee will provide thought leadership to propel the CIA forward in addressing the actuary’s role in climate risk in sustainability. They’ll be looking for opportunities to promote the role of the actuary in this area and they will co-ordinate the effort of various volunteer groups to address and integrate climate-related risks into other sustainability considerations in their work.

Another area of focus will be the improvement and efficient use of our technology, and this relates directly to our member value proposition. The website and our CRM systems are in great need of work. We will replace the current CRM with a member data platform solution and the website will be completely redesigned.

So, we believe that, with these initiatives, we will improve the value proposition and membership engagement.

Fievoli: Now, we also understand that we’re going to be reviewing the Rules of Professional Conduct. So, I was hoping you could tell me what plans we have there and how you see this eventually helping the profession to serve the public interest.

Pouliot: Well, the Rules of Professional Conduct have not been reviewed in several years. That’s my understanding.

With the number of discipline cases we’ve had in the last decade and also under the advice of the Actuarial Profession Oversight Board, we felt it was time to review our Rules of Professional Conduct and the work is under the responsibility of the Governance and Nominations Committee [GNC].

While I cannot get into all the details of the findings so far because the work has not been completed, I can speak of a few issues that have been identified so far. The first one has to do with the scope of the current Rules of Professional Conduct. For example, are they intended for professional services only, or are they also intended for all services our members provide?

The current rule relating to conflicts of interest, for example, is it applicable to the provision of professional services only, or should it apply to volunteer work as well? And the same thing applies to the rule on courtesy and co-operation.

Another issue relates to Rule 13. There is a growing concern that under Rule 13, members may even try to avoid being informed about material non-compliance due to the mandatory reporting requirements. And members might also be put in challenging positions on the ground of realities of continued employment, or even cordial working relationships with colleagues.

The GNC has elaborated preliminary recommendations to address these issues and the project is also closely linked to the review of our Bylaws. So, the Board is following progress on these very closely and we expect to have an update on that at our next meeting in October, and we hope to approve the final revised rules of professional conduct by March of 2023.

And throughout this process, there will be consultation with members to make sure we take into account comments from everyone.

Fievoli: One thing we’ve done recently at the CIA is launch a new branding for the Institute, but we do know there’s a lot more that can be done to raise the profile of actuaries. So, what other things would you like to see happen over the coming year in this particular area?

Pouliot: Well, the goal here is to modernize the brand. We want to strengthen the relationships we have currently, we want to broaden our audiences and become more understood, more approachable, and relevant.

We believe it is essential to expand the role of actuaries to increase the engagement of our members, attract new candidates, and increase the value of our professional designation. So, at act22 which we just had, we shared our new Big Data and Risk Classification material which will be distributed more broadly very soon. So that’s an example of the new branding of the CIA.

The Practice Development Council is also working on an awareness campaign to raise the profile of actuaries. This will be expanded upon in the coming year. We’ve talked, for example, about the publication of case studies to illustrate the actuarial know-how, and we talked about interviews with actuaries that are making a mark in their areas of practice. So more to come on that.

The Board has also formed a working group to expand on this priority to, in particular, determine what success would look like, so there will be more information to come on this. This will be a top priority for the Board and for myself in the coming year.

Fievoli: Great. And finally, let’s ask you what’s one thing that you would like to be different by the time your term ends a year from now?

Pouliot: That’s a very interesting question, Chris. The work of actuaries is, unfortunately, not well understood.

My wish is that we can make considerable progress in changing that and that we can be better known by our main stakeholders in Canada and that our voice can be heard on significant social issues like climate change, health care, and others.

While the CIA can do a lot to help achieve this goal – and I certainly wish we will make progress there – I would really like each one of our members to become an ambassador of our profession in sharing the exciting work that they do, to demonstrate the large talents actuaries have, and how they can help find solutions to complex problems. So, we’ll see if my wish comes true.

Fievoli: Well, we will certainly remember to follow up with you a year from now and see what happens. So, thanks very much for joining us on the podcast episode today.

Pouliot: Thank you so much.

Fievoli: We now have over 100 episodes in our podcast series stretching back over the last three years, so we encourage everybody to subscribe, and you can do so through whatever platform you use to get your podcasts.

We would like to hear from you as well, so if you have any suggestions or episode ideas, you can send them to podcasts@cia-ica.ca. As well, we are always looking for content for our Seeing Beyond Risk blog, so we have some ideas you would like to share. You can reach us at seeingbeyondrisk@cia-ica.ca.

Until next time. I’m Chris Fievoli and thank you for tuning in to Seeing Beyond Risk.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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