What is Your Life Staff Actuary Doing for You?

This is the first in a series of blog postings over the next few months to introduce you to the actuaries on staff at the SOA and the work they do on behalf of the profession. If you have a question for Mike, our first “victim”, on his role at the SOA, feel free to leave a comment below.

MikeBoot Name: Mike Boot, FSA, MAAA

Title: Managing Director of Actuarial Marketplace Solutions

How long have you been at the SOA? I just reached my 4th anniversary last month.

Why/How did you decide to become an actuary? When I entered college as a math major, I learned about the actuarial career, which combined my interest in practical mathematics and business.  That attracted me to attend an Actuarial Information Day hosted by Hewitt in Lincolnshire, IL. where I first met an actuary in person.

What is your area of practice? Life area of practice—I have primarily been involved in the product development and pricing arena.

What are the biggest issues facing your area of practice right now? Convergence of accounting is creating challenges and opportunities for actuaries.  The regulatory environment is dynamic and the changes include those coming from Solvency II and IFRS and principle-based approach to reserves and capital, which impacts actuaries.   The current economic environment with increased focus on the tail-event risk along with pricing under the new frameworks is a very difficult challenge.           

How is the SOA helping to address those issues? The SOA is very aware of the needs with these issues.  If you attend the Life and Annuity Symposium, or Valuation Actuary Symposium or the SOA Annual Meeting, you will hear from expert actuaries about the newest information that will be relevant to your work.  In the research area, the SOA has been at the forefront and produced reports on “Financial Reporting for Insurance Contracts under Possible Future International Accounting Standards” and “Analysis of Proposed Principle-Based Approach”. 

What is a typical day like for you at the SOA? I’m not sure that there is a typical day, since we must react to the changing issues.  In general, about 1/3 of my time is spent on section issues arising from the Product Development, Reinsurance and Financial Reporting Sections; about 1/3 on  management issues for the Actuarial Marketplace Solutions (AMS) staff;  and about 1/3 on key SOA strategic and operational projects.

What are some projects you are currently working on?  One area that I am actively managing is the launch of a new rapid response research function.  This function would enhance the existing retirement research capability to allow the SOA to respond to shorter-term issues of immediate public policy and/or media interest. Another project is assisting in more clearly defining an international strategy for the SOA.  Twelve percent of the SOA membership is located outside of North America, yet we have not clearly articulated the strategic value and relationship with those members.   

What do you like most about your job? What I like most is the variety of projects that I am involved in.  I also really like interacting with the volunteers and the SOA staff, as I have much respect for the contributions of the volunteers giving one of their most precious gifts of time, and I have much respect for the high-caliber SOA employees. 

Where did you work prior to the SOA? I worked in the industry in a variety of actuarial roles for 25 years at Principal Financial and Allstate Financial. One of my unusual roles was when I was part of Allstate International with my work in India.  I was first involved in working to change the legislation to allow foreign companies to operate as insurance companies in India, as there was only one life insurance company there at the time (the Life Insurance Corporation of India).   

What advice would you offer to up-and-coming actuaries?  First, I would suggest having an attitude of gratitude.  There is hard work and frustration with the role of an actuarial student, but you are in a great career and can thank the many people who went ahead of you and can be mentors to you.  Second, be curious in your job.  Do not do the minimal amount to just run a model to get an answer, but always be asking the “Big-Picture” questions so you fully understand the context.  Finally, I would suggest that you be a continuous learner.  It is easy to think that that when you earn your FSA that you have arrived and learned everything.  That is only the starting point for an actuary, and the world is dynamic so you must keep learning.      

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself?  If you are ever in my office, you can clearly tell that I am a fan and graduate of the University of Michigan.  Even with the poor football seasons for the past two years, I remain a loyal fan and attend the home football games when I am able.  Go Blue!  

Got a question for Mike on his work in the life practice area or on Actuarial Marketplace Solutions in general? We invite you to post your questions below!

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