Inaugural Remarks of 2019-20 Academy President D. Joeff Williams at the American Academy of Actuaries Annual Meeting and Public Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 5, 2019
Williams: It’s a great honor to take office as President.
Shawna, you will be a tough act to follow.
It has been my pleasure to observe and learn from you this past year.
I say thank you.
As I look in the audience at familiar faces of past presidents and Academy volunteers who I’ve had the pleasure to work with, there are a lot of tough acts to follow.
I know you all have high expectations, and you should.
Seeing this audience and knowing that you represent thousands of other Academy members reinforces for me that the Academy’s purpose and objectives transcend any one person or even any point in time.
Our history is rich, shaped over decades by thousands of hands, both yours and others’, drawing from our dually defined mission: public policy and professionalism.
Think about all those who led and contributed to the Academy in the past.
The result of their achievements transcends the efforts of particular individuals, benefiting thousands of actuaries across the country and tens of millions who depend on government safety net programs, insurance, pension plans, and other financial systems.
Those who shaped our history include the founders who identified the need for a national organization for the profession and took steps to endorse and form it in 1965.
Soon after the formation, subsequent leaders laid the groundwork for the Code of Professional Conduct and the recognition of Academy membership for actuarial qualifications before the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and accounting entities in the late 1960s.
The next generation of visionaries trumpeted the importance of actuarial expertise in public policy in the 1970s and established our Washington, D.C., office.
They were followed by pioneers who organized the Committee on Qualifications, the Actuarial Standards Board, and the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline in the 1980s and 1990s.
And all those who helped project the Academy’s objective and independent voice on Social Security, health care reform, pension security, and other public policy issues of their times.
The Academy’s work continued into the 2000s with the adoption of a single, unifying Code of Professional Conduct and to most recently the celebration of our 50th anniversary in 2015.
I want to use this year to add my hands and urge others to add theirs, to shaping the Academy’s history going forward.
I think of us as builders upon a great legacy, not just blindly following plans but strategically designing and executing those plans that will guide us and create a bridge to meet the professionalism and the public policy challenges of the future.
Shawna mentioned the recently adopted strategic plan.
In recent years, the Academy has acted to make strategic changes necessary to be true to our fundamental and unchanging mission, and we can honor the legacy left to us by continuing to identify and address not just momentary issues but also bigger strategic needs.
These strategic changes have included the streamlining of our Board of Directors to enhance our independence and objectivity and changes in our approach to international issues so our efforts as the national association for the U.S. profession are in fact more direct, responsive, and effective for U.S. actuaries.
As we work together to build and plan for the Academy’s future, that word ‘effective’ is critical.
The Academy’s tagline is “Objective. Independent. Effective.”
While “effective” comes last, it’s a mistake to interpret that as meaning effectiveness is an afterthought.
Every year, all Academy members who volunteer attest to objectivity.
In our volunteer service and through the Academy’s publications, we see how the Academy operates independently of other groups and interests.
Our efforts must be effective though to truly accomplish our mission.
As we engage in our work and lay the groundwork for the Academy’s future this year, I hope to focus on how the Academy is relevant on a daily basis to our members and to the stakeholders that we touch, especially policymakers and the public who rely on sound actuarial work.
This will include highlighting to members, other stakeholders and the public the many public policy and professionalism resources and activities of the Academy and their benefits.
These range from resources aimed at facilitating our collective professionalism requirements, like our qualifications attestation form and Frequently Asked Questions on the Qualification Standards, to the many timely and informative public policy materials aimed at a more external audience on issues leading up to next year’s presidential and congressional elections.
I want to express my appreciation for the honor of being selected as the Academy’s 55th President, and I look forward to working with you to build on the legacy left by Shawna and so many others, and to make our work as effective as possible.