Farewell Remarks of 2020-21 Academy President Tom Campbell at the American Academy of Actuaries' Hybrid Annual Meeting and Public Policy Forum on Nov. 4, 2021
In a few minutes, I will hand the presidential gavel over to Maryellen Coggins. But before that I have a few remarks I’d like share.
When I became president at last year’s Annual Meeting and Public Policy Forum, I spoke about my love for cycling, and I made the analogy of how I see our members and volunteers as a team of bike riders on a long group bike ride. On such a ride, the cyclist at the front of the group not only sets the pace of the ride, they actually end up making the ride a little bit easier for the other riders. During the past year, I’ve had the honor to lead the ride—to be at the front of the group ride in the Academy’s continuing journey to further actuarial professionalism and develop sound public policy.
As I begin to slow-pedal a bit and Maryellen Coggins moves up to take the lead, I want to share how the experience of being Academy President has made me proud of the Academy team. Our members’ dedication and the high quality and timely efforts of our talented volunteers support our mission in so many ways.
Our goal as Academy volunteers is to make significant contributions to vital public policy discussions and to ensure a robust and effective infrastructure for actuarial professionalism in the United States.
I’m proud to say that during the past year, our efforts have come to fruition on both of these fronts, and reflected the best of the Academy and our profession.
One point I made last year was that as a cyclist, you need to be prepared for all conditions—whether it’s a detour, bad weather or smooth sailing ahead, a wrong turn, or (unfortunately) a distracted driver, you have to trust your training to meet whatever conditions the road throws at you.
Over the past year, the Academy certainly has had to respond to changing conditions. Those conditions included changes in the administration and Congress, and in policy priorities after the 2020 elections. The Academy stepped up to provide analysis on both new and continuing priorities for policymakers, including provisions in new federal legislation on multiemployer pension plans, and renewed focus from policymakers on climate change.
Another new condition was in June, when the Academy wished our former Executive Director, Mary Downs, farewell as she began retirement. The Academy conducted an extensive search, and has recently welcomed our new Executive Director, Bill Michalisin. Bill started at the end of September, and we are excited to see him already bringing his talents to the Academy. Welcome again, Bill. I hope everyone here gets a chance to say hello.
Some of the most important conditions affecting our work of late arose from the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. It continues to have impacts worldwide, including on this meeting which for the first time is in a hybrid format. Our accomplishments in spite of dealing with challenges presented by COVID-19 include providing policymakers and regulators at all levels of government with relevant actuarial analysis on the pandemic’s implications for public and private insurance and pension programs and systems. The list includes Social Security and Medicare, pensions, and a wide variety of insurance coverages such as health, life, property and casualty liability, and long-term care.
Through these challenging times, our volunteers have shown determination and acumen, in helping policymakers and the public understand the implications from an actuarial perspective. We’ll hear about much of their work in tomorrow’s COVID-19 plenary.
The Academy has played a key role in relating the pandemic’s implications to Congress and federal agencies. A great example is Casualty Vice President Lauren Cavanaugh’s written testimony to a subcommittee of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on “Insuring Against a Pandemic.” COVID-19 was also a major topic among the many issues discussed during the Health Practice Council’s and Pension Practice Council’s annual Hill Visits, this year held virtually with congressional and federal agency personnel.
The Academy has also played an important role in educating the profession about how current actuarial practice has been affected by the pandemic, one example being the Life Practice Council’s discussion paper, Asset Adequacy Testing Considerations for Year-End 2020. The paper summarizes actuarial practices for life financial reporting actuaries involved with asset adequacy testing and related activities in the extreme economic environment that arose in 2020.
Like my cycling analogy, our members have trusted their training and experience as actuaries to meet the current conditions. Whether it is policy priorities in the new administration, COVID-19, or any other conditions, our work not only informs the formation of sound public policy – it serves to raise awareness of the role, expertise, and perspective of actuaries. It extends well beyond any single issue or audience.
As Academy President, I have come to appreciate like never before that it truly takes a team approach to ensure that the valuable actuarial perspectives supported by the Academy’s professionalism infrastructure are shared widely. The various stakeholders we reach include federal agencies and diverse organizations like the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or the NAIC, the National Council of Insurance Legislators, or NCOIL, and the International Association of Insurance Supervisors, or IAIS. Each of these organizations have distinct supervisory and oversight concerns over the regulation of insurance. From comments made by the Academy’s Solvency Committee to the Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office regarding its Study on the Insurance Capital Standard, to the many Academy volunteers engaged with NAIC and NCOIL on important new public policy initiatives on health equity and DE&I. We are proud of our dedicated volunteer groups who have responded nimbly to advance our public policy and professionalism mission and ensure the Academy’s voice is heard in many forums. Indeed, we heard about some of the Academy’s DE&I work in this morning’s plenary session.
In the international arena, we work with not only the IAIS but also with member organizations of the North American Actuarial Council, and the Actuarial Association of Europe, and other international organizations. The Academy’s original research paper on scalar methodologies, released in April, is a valuable contribution to developing capital adequacy measures for financial groups that operate businesses in more than one country and/or more than one industry. We’ll hear more about the scalars paper during tomorrow’s plenary on insurance regulation spanning the International, federal, and state levels.
Elevating the value of our perspectives as professionals to all the stakeholders we reach—legislators, regulators, the public, and current and future actuaries in the United States and around the world--crucially depends on the day-to-day work of the Academy’s Council on Professionalism and the professionalism infrastructure housed in the Academy—including the Actuarial Standards Board, and the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline. Our journey together as actuaries cannot be effective without them. The Council on Professionalism is constantly evaluating and responding to our needs as a profession, and this year the council produced a terrific discussion paper on Professionalism and the Solo Actuary.
I am delighted to tell you that earlier this week the Academy Board approved an update to the U.S. Qualification Standards that include modifications needed as a result of changes the NAIC made related to Appointed Actuaries signing NAIC Statements of Actuarial Opinion for Property and Casualty Annual Statements. The Academy will be publishing the new standard in the coming weeks and disseminating it widely. I want to pass on the board’s heartfelt thanks to Committee on Qualifications for their tireless efforts in completing this task, and to everyone who responded with comments to the exposure drafts.
Making the value of actuarial professionalism explicit both within our profession and to external audiences is something we need to continue to do – it is central to fulfilling the Academy’s mission. A great example from this past year where we did this was Senior Life Fellow Nancy Bennett’s virtual testimony before the Texas House Committee on Insurance in March. Nancy put the profession’s best foot forward, providing this key committee and the viewers of this hearing with an overview on the Academy’s mission and the actuarial profession’s role in insurance across practice areas. She also talked more broadly about the significance of actuarial professionalism and the role of the actuary in public policy.
Last year, I talked about how the Academy’s proverbial group bike ride dates back to the founding of the Academy over 55 years ago. In my analogy, I was taking over the lead from Joeff Williams, and it just seemed like this happened yesterday. In a few minutes, I will pass the lead on to Maryellen Coggins. I know we will keep this long ride going. We will do this by continuing to elevate others’ understanding of the actuarial profession and through the contributions to public policy discussions we make in so many ways and to so many different stakeholders. This is only possible because of the support of our nearly 20,000 members and our more than 1,200 volunteers. Our accomplishments belong to the whole group, and your support will ensure that the mission is carried forward by future Academy members and for future generations of actuaries.
The work continues – so, get on your bikes -- it’s going to be a great ride!
Thank you for the honor of serving as the Academy President.