What’s in a designation? Stories of actuaries and their transitioning careers

By Chris Fievoli, FCIA

For those of us with an ACIA or FCIA designation, those four hard-earned letters can represent many things. Beyond being a celebrated achievement, they’re a signal that we have expertise in actuarial practice and can be trusted to do high-quality work according to established standards. Our designations can also meet an important legal requirement, in that only an FCIA can perform certain reserved roles, such as serving as an Appointed Actuary.

But what about actuaries who transition away from doing pure actuarial work and migrate into more management-oriented roles? What about CIA members who work outside of Canada or members who transition into retirement? For me, working in the CIA’s Head Office means I’m no longer doing active actuarial work, but it never occurred to me to drop my designation – and not just because the CIA is now my employer. In fact, having my designation allows me to stay connected both to what’s happening in the Canadian actuarial world and to my colleagues in the profession. I still see tremendous value in being an FCIA.

I was curious to know what the FCIA or ACIA designation means to other members in non-traditional or maturing careers, so I caught up with three colleagues to find out their thoughts.

Zahid Salman, FCIA, has enjoyed a varied career. Starting off as a pension actuary, he first did technical work before eventually transitioning to a more client-focused practice. When his interest turned to management, he began taking on roles in that space, leading to his appointment in 2018 as President and CEO of Green Shield Canada. Even though his job could be performed without his CIA designation, dropping it has never been a consideration for him, and he believes doing his continuing professional development (CPD) requirements helps him keep up to date with the profession and important issues.

As Zahid put it, “I am pleased with how the CPD program is designed in that it is focused more on development relevant to your role rather than just on technical actuarial work, which may not be as relevant for some of us now.”

“As it stands, his designation indicates a number of skills that aren’t necessarily related to technical actuarial practice – financial acumen, problem-solving capability and increased credibility in management roles in the HR and insurance sectors.”

– Chris Fievoli, FCIA

“Maintaining my CIA designation allows me to remain connected to the profession through development, networking and other opportunities.” Zahid has a good point here. There are many different ways to stay connected to the profession – CPD being one of them – and having a CIA membership keeps all those doors open.

Brad Wallis, FCIA, and I had a chance to work (and curl) together a number of years ago. When he had an opportunity to do a three-week project in Tokyo in 2010, he was hooked on both the culture and opportunities presented in Asia. After stints in the Philippines and Vietnam, he recently moved to Indonesia to serve as Chief of Product and Inforce Management for Manulife. Although Canada remains far away geographically, he still feels the relevance of his CIA membership.

For one, Brad recognizes the practical value of membership in enabling him to stay up to date on applicable standards and to make use of the CIA’s publications and educational content, which can be helpful when working for a Canadian parent company. The strong international reputation of the CIA’s designations is another big bonus. “I am proud to hold this designation – it represents a high standard of competence and professionalism,” he said. “I appreciate that the Institute has a robust strategy around influencing the financial well-being of societies it serves. FCIAs can support this by representing the CIA in markets outside of Canada, sharing our expertise to make a positive impact on the financial security of people around the world.”

This is something I hear a lot from the international community. Not only do Canadians contribute greatly to international organizations like the International Actuarial Association, but our work here at home – such as our Standards of Practice – is actively reviewed, and sometimes adopted, in other jurisdictions. Staying connected while overseas is about a lot more than just keeping in touch with your home country.

Denise Lang, FCIA, is someone who continues to be involved with and contribute to the profession, even during retirement. After a long career that involved work as a Chief Financial Officer in the insurance industry and as the Chief Actuary for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, she is still active in the actuarial community, serving on the board of BMO Assurance and as a CIA volunteer.

She continues to maintain her membership, especially because of her board work, to stay current with what’s happening in the actuarial world and to maintain her CPD requirements. “Participating on CIA committees helps me stay in touch with the industry, which is interesting for me personally and helps me be a better board member.”

“It’s notable that many of our members – active and retired – bring their talents to different boardrooms, including those in non-actuarial organizations. The FCIA designation brings instant credibility and provides another means by which our profession can serve the public.”

– Chris Fievoli, FCIA

While each of these members may have gone through a career transition, what makes them an actuary is their commitment to lifelong learning and giving back to the profession. We all have in common a drive to help Canadians and others around the world with their financial security, even if we’re no longer directly performing actuarial work. To me, this is truly what it means to be a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries.

This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not represent an official statement of the CIA.

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