President's Message (January 28, 2011)

Dear Academy colleague,

With this week's State of the Union address by President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan's response, the legislative season kicks into high gear in the nation's Capitol. While many of those commenting upon the Presidential address are seeking to promote specific legislation or regulation, the Academy's focus is to ensure that the voice of the actuarial profession is heard by all involved in crafting the nation's policy agenda. To that end, earlier this week we released a statement in advance of the State of the Union that calls on those crafting the domestic policy agenda to focus on improving Americans' financial security and restoring the nation's fiscal health.

The issues in the Academy's recommendation include restoring the financial viability of both Social Security and Medicare, ensuring against longevity risk and promoting lifetime income, reducing long-term medical care spending growth, and incorporating sound risk management principles in financial regulatory reform. You can read the entire two-page press release here.

The Academy Board of Directors met the first week of January in a two-day meeting. You can view the agenda for the Board meeting and read a summary of both days' activities by logging in to the members-only section of the Academy website.

You may recall that the Governance Task Force (GTF) was appointed in early 2010 by my predecessor, Ken Hohman, to address a variety of governance issues. The GTF mission read in part: "The GTF has been established to review, analyze and recommend improvements on the Academy's governance structure, to fulfill the Academy's mission and strategic plan.... The GTF will examine structure, function and process; assessing each as to their effectiveness and appropriateness in supporting the mission and goals of the Academy. The GTF will gather information, analyze it, and make specific recommendations to the Board of Directors."

Having received the report of the Governance Task Force (GTF) at its Oct. 5, 2010, meeting, the Board of Directors added an extra day to its January meeting to review the 19 recommendations contained in that report. You can read and download the report here.

During its January meeting the Board carefully considered all of the issues raised and recommendations made by the GTF. As a result of that work, and to keep the process moving forward, three task forces were created.

  • A task force to develop a proposal to facilitate member participation in the election of regular directors of the Board.
  • A task force to evaluate the pros and cons of a proposal for a smaller board structure versus the GTF recommendation for maintaining the current structure.
  • A task force to explore creation of a formal leadership development program within the Academy.

The first two groups are expected to report at a special conference call of the Board scheduled for mid-March. The leadership development group is expected to conduct research and formulate a proposal for the Board; this group's work may take several months to complete. Changes under consideration by the board could go beyond the final recommendations contained in the GTF report. I'll continue to keep you updated as the work of all three task forces progresses.

The Board also covered a wide range of issues and actions on its regular agenda, and I encourage you read the summary available from the members-only homepage on the Academy website.

Another item on the Board agenda that I'm particularly excited to share with you was review and approval of revised Vision and Mission statements for the Academy. The Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) worked through much of 2010 on a series of vital revisions to the Vision and Mission statements. Before the SPC submitted a final proposal to the Board, however, we gave the new Academy Advisors panel an opportunity to review, evaluate and comment upon the drafts. More than two-thirds of the Advisors completed a 26-question survey, which included several opportunities to provide open-ended comments. While members of the Academy Advisors panel overwhelmingly approved the concepts in the revised Vision statement and each component of the revised Mission statement, panel members also provided more than 200 open-ended comments. The SPC reviewed all of those responses and, as a result of some excellent suggestions and thoughtful critiques, significantly tightened the focus of the Vision statement in particular.

With a big thank-you to the Academy Advisors panel, I'm pleased to share with you the Academy's newly adopted revised Vision and Mission Statements:

Vision
The vision of the American Academy of Actuaries is that financial security systems in the United States be sound and sustainable, and that actuaries be recognized as preeminent experts in risk and financial security.

Mission
The American Academy of Actuaries' mission is to serve the public and the United States actuarial profession. To accomplish this:

  • As the public voice for the United States actuarial profession, the Academy provides independent and objective actuarial information, analysis, and education for the formation of sound public policy;
  • The Academy provides for the establishment, maintenance, and enforcement of high professional standards of actuarial qualification, practice, and conduct;
  • The Academy advances actuarial practice by informing and educating its members on public policy and professionalism issues and current and emerging practices;
  • The Academy identifies and addresses issues on behalf of the public interest on matters in which actuarial science provides a unique understanding;
  • The Academy increases the public's understanding and recognition of the value of the actuarial profession;
  • The Academy provides opportunities for professional development of its members through volunteerism and service to the profession;
  • The Academy facilitates and coordinates response to issues of common interest among the U.S.-based actuarial associations; and
  • The Academy coordinates the representation of the U.S. profession globally.

As the Mission Statement clearly sets out, there's always so much work going on at the Academy! And, of course, to accomplish all of this, we need your help. If there's a component of the State of the Union address or a part of the Mission that resonates with you, I assure you there's a committee for that—and it will only do its job better if we have your input. You can begin your volunteer journey with the Academy by completing a short online form or you can send an e-mail to volunteer@actuary.org.

With so many issues relevant to Actuaries at the forefront of the domestic political news, I encourage you to check the Academy website frequently for updates. Another way to stay current with all the Academy news is to sign up to follow the Academy on Twitter. And keep an eye out on the Academy's YouTube channel for video news reports and features.

As always, we invite your comments and suggestions on any of this. Just send your thoughts to communications@actuary.org.

Sincerely,

Mary Frances Miller
President
American Academy of Actuaries