Seeing Through the SOA Strategic Planning Process

by Emily Kessler, FSA, EA, FCA, MAAA

 

SOA Senior Fellow – Intellectual Capital

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”  — Winston Churchill

The SOA Board uses a strategic plan to guide the work of the Board.  In turn, the strategic plan reflects what the organization strives to achieve over a specific period of time.  The current plan covers 2013 through 2016.

Why start the process for 2017-2021 now?  A great deal of research, thought and feedback goes into the planning process.  For example, the Strategic Planning Task Force is responsible for determining the most important trends and opportunities for the profession as well as identifying the professions greatest strengths and challenges.

The process of establishing the SOA Strategic Plan has five phases:

Phase I has been about gathering information – trends in the environment, the actuarial skill set, roles and opportunities for actuaries, and what that means for the work of the SOA.  Phase I results are completed and I have highlighted some of what they’ve learned below in “What We Have Learned So Far.”

Phase II refines the mission and vision.  In Fall 2015, members of the SOA will have the opportunity to work with the phrases and concepts that are the building blocks of the mission and vision.  The mission is a statement of who we are as the SOA; the vision is what we want to accomplish.  By giving us your input (delivered to your inbox and completed online) members will provide their own versions of the mission and vision of the SOA.  All of your feedback will be considered by the Strategic Planning Task Force.

Phase III is focused on the question, “What are the critical changes needed to meet the vision and the mission?”  By now, the Task Force has a refined mission and vision determined by member input and now they are tasked with testing it against the current and emerging priorities of the organization and the profession.  During this time, the Task Force will be working on the exposure draft for member input.

Phase IV is time for the exposure draft to members for your review and comment.  Members will be notified of the exposure draft release in June 2016 and will be given a specified amount of time to respond.

Phase V involves finalizing the plan and initiatives.  The SOA Board will take up final approval of the plan at its October 2016 meeting.

 

What We Have Learned So Far

“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” — Will Rogers

The Task Force has had conversations with members, employers, industry leaders and volunteer leaders.  They have identified key trends affecting the profession and the industries its serves, as well as opportunities and challenges for the profession.  The Task Force facilitated workshops and in-depth interviews with:

  • SOA Board of Directors at their March 2015 meeting;
  • Employers’ Council (made up of actuaries and non-actuaries representing insurance companies, consulting firms, investment firms, etc.);
  • Section Council chairs and vice-chairs in April 2015;
  • Key industry leaders including academics, leaders in insurance and consulting, actuaries in key government roles, SOA presidential officers from the US, Canada and Asia; and
  • SOA member panel consisting of 249 members.

The information gathered covered a wide range of topics – from economic and social forces shaping insurance, pensions and health care to how the profession needs to make sure we can continue to recruit strong candidates.  Here are four themes that emerged that were also the top choices of the member panel survey respondents:

#1 Trend – The rise of big data and predictive analytics.  It was identified as the biggest trend driving the profession, and our biggest opportunity, but also the area where actuaries need to catch up.

  • 57% of members surveyed identified big data/data analytics as one of the most important trends driving the actuarial profession
  • 57% of members surveyed identified predictive modeling/new uses for actuarial models as one of the most important opportunities for actuaries
  • 46% of members surveyed identified big data/data analytics as one of the most important opportunities for the actuarial profession

Another key trend is the increasing effect of regulation on the profession:

  • 50% of members surveyed identified increasing effect of regulation as one of the most important trends driving the actuarial profession
  • 31% of members surveyed identified increasing effect of regulation on actuarial work as one of the most important opportunities for the actuarial profession
  • 34% of members surveyed identified research aimed at policymakers, regulators and/or the general public as one of the most important opportunities for the actuarial profession

Promoting the value of the actuarial skill set was identified as an important challenge and opportunity for the actuarial profession:

  • 46% of members surveyed identified professional and ethics as one of the actuarial profession’s greatest strengths
  • 62% of members surveyed identified the ability to solve complex problems as one of the actuarial profession’s greatest strengths

In contrast:

  • 46% of members surveyed identified low public awareness as of the actuarial profession’s greatest challenges
  • 32% of members surveyed identified lack of recognition/respect across industries as one of the actuarial profession’s greatest challenges
  • 62% of members surveyed identified actuaries reputation for poor communication skills as one of the actuarial profession’s greatest challenges

 

Next Steps and Ways to Get Involved

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”  — John Scully 

The Strategic Planning Task Force is thinking about how to best express the SOA mission – what we do; and vision – what we’ll achieve – by 2021.

They need your help!

  1. Take a moment to react to the findings here and leave a comment on the blog.
  2. Mark your calendar for Fall 2015 – the Task Force will be looking for your input and feedback on the mission and vision statements.
  3. Remember that the exposure draft of the mission, vision and priorities will be available to you for comment in summer 2016.
  4. You will be hearing from us throughout the process updating you on progress and bringing findings to you in interactive and sharable ways such as infographics and presentations – in other words – stay tuned!

Comments, feedback and suggestions can also be sent to membercomms@soa.org

 

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