Embarking on my very first blog post of any kind, personal or professional, I find myself wondering where to start. Introductions are definitely in order so let's get those out of the way.
My name is Alison Rose and I'm a life insurance actuary and one of three partners in KPMG in Canada's Life and Pension Actuarial practice. We currently number more than 30 high-performing professionals and are growing. We are an arm of KPMG's financial risk management service line, offering a full suite of actuarial services for life insurance companies, pension funds and employee benefits. We are also very much focused on developing the next generation of actuarial models, tools, processes and techniques to benefit our clients. A snapshot of our capabilities can be found here.
Being an actuary is a huge part of my identity. It's a relatively small and somewhat obscure profession. We don't have the numbers or recognition of the more well-known professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers. The process to gain full certification as an actuary is incredibly challenging, and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA), the professional body that certifies actuaries and regulates actuarial practice nationally, has only approximately 6,000 members. I'm fond of saying that there are probably more chartered accountants in Ontario than fully credentialled actuaries in the entire world.
So, what is an actuary? There are many different areas of actuarial practice, so it's tough to come up with a generic description, but I'm going to go with this: actuaries are professionals who use specialized tools and techniques to develop and monitor solutions to financial security problems arising from future uncertainty. Actuaries have been a key part of life insurance product design and pricing, risk management and overall financial performance management and strategy since the eighteenth century when the first mathematical and statistical tools were developed for the purpose of assessing and pricing the mortality risk that life insurers bear. This connection with mathematics and statistics is deep and abiding for me: when I first came to Canada nearly 20 years ago, I was on a work permit that did not have "actuary" as an option for occupation, so I was advised to use "mathematician."
Being a consulting life actuary in a huge global audit and professional services firm is incredibly engaging. I spend a fair amount of time marketing internally as well as externally, as even those who are familiar with actuaries often have a very limited understanding of what we can bring to the table. We are so much more than number crunchers! I'm even willing to stick my neck out and say that no one understands the overall business of life insurers better than actuaries. Yes, we can do the math on what price to charge and how much to put aside for future contingencies, but we also know the regulatory environment, the risk environment and the associated operational considerations.
Have I made the case for actuaries to be involved in pretty much every major initiative a life insurer takes on? I hope so. Indeed, my team and I often work on multi-disciplinary engagements to help our clients. A lot of my work is currently on IFRS 17 implementation and we team up with our Accounting Advisory and Operations colleagues to bring the fully rounded view to this work that is crucial to success.
It's pretty clear I'm proud of my profession and of being part of KPMG. As I write this, it's also National Volunteer Week and I'd like to close this introductory blog post with a nod to the virtues of volunteering and community engagement. KPMG actively encourages giving back to the community and I am happy to be supported in my own volunteer efforts, both within KPMG and in the wider community. Relatedly, I am one of the two partner sponsors of KPMG's Black Professionals Network (BPN), which is one of more than 30 employee resource groups within the firm. The BPN is a key partner with the firm on initiatives aimed at combatting anti-black racism and promoting a diverse, equitable and inclusive society. I also volunteer with the CIA and presently hold the role of Chair of the Research Council. It's very satisfying to play a part in helping to keep the actuarial profession ahead of the curve in an increasingly complex world.
In my next post, I'll going to chat with my fellow partner Greg Winston about employee benefits. In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about the actuarial profession, whether in general or as it is practiced at KPMG, please drop me a line. There's a lot more I could say!
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