29Jul2011
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gmaki
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Do you belong to a section? The benefits of being a section member

A blog post on the benefits of belonging to an SOA section

by Glenda Maki, SOA Senior Communications Associate

GMaki Sections are a powerful part of what makes SOA membership so valuable – from hosting conferences to creating professional development materials to sharing the latest trends, sections offer a tremendous benefit to those who join. Being a section member gives you the opportunity to network with others in your areas of interest, participate in leading-edge research, and get more targeted insights and information.

Of course, members join sections for a variety of reasons and have diverse experiences. In this roundtable, four section members and leaders talk about how their section membership has enhanced their SOA experiences and careers.

Participants:
Jerry Enoch, Vice President and Chief Actuary, Alfa Life Insurance Corp.
Peggy Hauser, Senior VP Actuarial Services, Univita Health Inc.
Olga Jacobs, Actuary, UnitedHealth Group
Donna Megregian, Consulting Actuary, Milliman Inc.

How did you become involved in volunteering for a section?

Enoch: I was at a hospitality suite at an SOA meeting when I overheard that the Financial Reporting Section needed a new editor for their newsletter. I went over to find out what was involved and mentioned that I thought that was something that I could do. I helped for a few issues and then became the editor.

Megregian: I started out speaking at sessions for meetings and writing articles for the Product Development Section newsletter. I eventually got elected to the PD Section council. Within the council, there are many ways to branch out and assist in various functions. There are more ways to volunteer than I can reasonably offer my time to, despite my interest in them.

In your years as a section member, are there events or experiences that you have found particularly rewarding?

Megregian: I think being on the council has been the most rewarding. I have met some wonderful people and am inspired by how passionate some people are about trying to improve themselves and offer the ability to improve to others. As cliché as it may sound, it is in giving that we receive. In my experience, that has been very true.

Jacobs: I have been involved with creating sessions for various SOA meetings for my section. In that capacity I have had to cold call non-actuarial speakers and sell them on the concept of coming to an SOA event and making a presentation, usually for a very reduced fee. I have reached out to authors whose book I’ve enjoyed and companies specializing in corporate training. And when I have been able to make a connection and bring that talent to an SOA event, I find that particularly rewarding.

Enoch: Working with people who feed off each other to create something energizes me. During a call of the Financial Reporting Section Council, I challenged the group to develop a service to members that could successfully be repeated periodically. A colleague, Sue Deakins, said, “Why don’t we have a Valuation Actuaries Forum, like the Chief Actuaries Forum?” I immediately saw what this could be, and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself. A few months later, we held the first Valuation Actuaries Forum.

What would you say to a new ASA or FSA about joining a section?

Enoch: Joining sections helps you develop your strengths, broaden your knowledge and abilities, and network. It also provides opportunities to serve. As you serve, you become known by more actuaries, develop close relationships and develop abilities in ways otherwise unavailable to you.

Hauser: Joining and getting involved with a section is a great way to learn about current events in your area of interest.

Megregian: Think of it this way; don’t join the section wondering “what is this going to do for me?” The section will help you whether you know it or not through the newsletters, research, sessions at the meetings, etc. I’d like to see the attitude of “what would I like to see the section do, and how can it happen if it is not happening already?” Sections need ideas, feedback and volunteers!

How do sections contribute to SOA meetings?

Jacobs: No sections, no SOA meetings … no opportunity for professional development, continuing education or having the regular opportunity to connect with actuaries from other companies.

What is a section’s role in offering Continuing Professional Development (CPD)?

Enoch: Sections have almost unlimited latitude in being creative about ways to offer CPD. To discuss some examples with which I’m familiar, the Financial Reporting Section has conceived and introduced the Valuation Actuaries Forum, and they even offer GAAP seminars overseas. The Smaller Insurance Company Section is producing four webcasts this year oriented toward actuaries at smaller companies. The days in which sections only produce newsletters and plan sessions at meetings are long gone.

What are a few issues that are relevant to practitioners, and how does/do the section(s) you belong to address those issues?

Jacobs: Leadership and personal growth is on everyone’s agenda. It applies regardless of job title and impacts all aspects of life, not just the workplace. The Management and Personal Development Section brings leadership and personal growth content to print in The Stepping Stone and in SOA Sessions.

Hauser: I am a member of the Long-Term Care Section. Currently the LTC insurance industry is faced with several issues including falling sales, increased regulation ad concerns about rate stability regulations achieving their objectives. The LTC Section Council has promoted the creation of several work groups to gather, brainstorm and attempt to find creative solutions for these issues.

Resources
Learn more about the SOA’s 19 sections
Join a section

Do you belong to a section? If so, what is the most important thing you’ve gotten out of being a member?

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