Embracing challenges for growth and opportunities: ASP holds 58th Annual Convention

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By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran

The internationally recognized Actuarial Society of the Philippines (ASP) is hosting its annual two-day convention from Nov. 16 to 17 at the Misibis Bay Resort, Cagraray Island in Bacacay, Albay.

The convention, which welcomes local and foreign professionals, is being held under the theme “Embracing Challenges for Growth and Opportunities.” Acting as the capstone to the organization’s various activities throughout the year, which include its general membership meetings, fellowship activities, sportsfest and professional development workshops, the convention also acts as the venue for professionals and other industry leaders to discuss significant issues and developments that are making an impact to the actuarial profession.

“Ten local and foreign experts will be discussing topics on diverse practice areas that relate to or affect the actuarial professionals,” ASP Vice President Jesselyn V. Ocampo told BusinessWorld.

“These topics were suitably chosen to stimulate the minds of the delegates to identify potential areas of growth and opportunities in their respective professions. In doing so, actuaries can face continually emerging professional challenges and become active and relevant participants in shaping and developing their respective organizations,” she added.

Ms. Ocampo also said that the convention will include a fellowship night, which will give the actuaries a venue to foster camaraderie to boost dynamic participation in the society’s current and future activities, and conclude in an induction night where a new set of ASP officers will take their oaths.

New risks, new challenges

Actuaries play an essential role to industries like insurance, pre-need and health maintenance organizations (HMOs), as they provide companies the means to assessing risks and measuring their financial possible impact. Financial service organizations and the academe also rely on actuaries for statistical, economic and financial analyses to make calculations and projections for a wide range of practical business problems. Actuaries are also used by many companies for their employee benefits and retirement plan consulting needs.

Life and non-life insurance companies and pre-need companies are strictly required to use actuaries in regulatory certification requirements such as for the valuation of future benefits to be paid and the development of new products. The HMO industry has recently been included in this list of companies being required to use actuaries, with the ASP actively assisting the Insurance Commission (IC) in drafting important circulars for the industry.

The ASP also aides the IC in technical working groups such as those organized to review guidelines for variable unit-linked life insurance products and to help companies prepare for the implementation of the new International Financial Reporting Standards 17 for insurance contracts.

Additionally, with the onset of developments in technology posing new risks to businesses, actuaries are getting involved in fields like cybersecurity, data analytics, and big data.

“The actuary can help try to manage risk by finding ways to measure it and make it tangible. Then once you’re able to measure risk, you’ll be able to mitigate it,” Froilan Emilio S. Racela, ASP president, told BusinessWorld.

Disruptive technologies and industries are drastically affecting how many companies operate, and the need for skilled actuaries grows ever greater. Mr. Racela said that one challenge for the actuarial profession in this changing industry landscape is the ongoing push for actuarial career relevance among students. Despite being one of the highest paying careers and consistently being ranked as one of the best professions in the world, as a profession unbeknown to many, and one where there are only about 70 Fellows in practice in the entire country, actuaries have a difficult time attracting new blood into the fold. Fellows are those who have fully completed the stringent actuarial exam requirements which are needed to be able to sign as an actuary.

“The question is how will we be able to keep ourselves attractive to the younger generation,” he said. “We’re still not as well-known as accountants, doctors, and engineers. We haven’t really been promoting ourselves. It’s in our plans but I think we can still do a better job at it,” Mr. Racela said.

“It’s always been our dream to multiply our number. One of our goals in our #ASP2020 strategic plan with the theme ‘Actuaries Set for Progress’ is to significantly grow our number. Now, we’re just about 70 fellows. Perhaps we can double that by 2020 with a total of 300 fellows and associates,” he added.

A community of actuaries

The ASP’s 58th Annual Convention aims to support the plans to increase the commitment and engagement of the members of the ASP. Mr. Racela noted that the first step for the growth of the profession will naturally be to strengthen its foundation: the technical knowledge and skill of the actuaries themselves.

“Just recently, the vision came to me that the ASP should be a community of actuaries, not just an organization, but a community. In a community, you are like brothers and sisters taking care of each other,” he said.

Part of the ASP’s initiatives for the year included a new Learning and Development Education Series that serves as a series of workshops on essential actuarial tasks towards developing the best practices and approaches. More than 25 ASP Fellows and Associates are involved with the series, acting as mentors to younger members of the ASP seeking to hone their craft. Knowledge and work experience are being shared unselfishly.

By making sure that everyone in the organization will be able to do their job well, Mr. Racela pointed out that the ASP will be able to increase the engagement and commitment of its members and transform the society into a community.

“That’s a vision that we should push for. We should not just be a professional organization concerned about how to do our own work, but more concerned about the people behind the profession, the actual members,” he said.

“In 2017, the ASP lost two stalwarts of the actuarial profession, Isagani de Castro and Ines Belleza. Mr. De Castro and Ma’am Belleza were instrumental in the development of the actuarial profession in the Philippines and we would like to honor them for all their contributions, especially how they helped support the careers of future actuaries. And this should really be what ASP is all about, a community of actuaries,” he added.