For a brief moment I thought I could read and understand Italian. “L’Attuario: una professione in evoluzione al servizio della società”. This was the title and overarching motto of the 10th National Congress of Italian Actuaries. It was easy to translate this Italian text to Dutch, my mother-tongue. From there I translated it freely into English: The Actuary: an evolving profession in service of society. I immediately liked this connection between the actuary and the society and I decided to take that as the inspirational text for my speech at the opening ceremony to which I was invited by my Italian friend I felt it as a great honour to speak at this occasion to over 800 Italian actuaries!
A short extract from my speech in Rome:
“The actuary in service to the society. We sometimes have a different view on complex technical issues in models. I am thinking of Solvency II for insurers and also Solvency for Pensions. In the end we should accept that a model is just a model. I mean, a model is never fully right, never fully representing the reality. A model should therefore never be a goal in itself. It is a means to a higher goal. And what is this higher goal? This is all about serving society! The work we do affects people, human beings of flesh and blood, people with feelings. The issues we are discussing are often complex but they have almost always an impact on people. This is something we should be aware of. It is in the end not the model, not the number, it is how individual people are affected. We, actuaries, are experts in all sorts of long-term issues. Other people are generally not. They are affected though. This puts a great responsibility on us as knights, fighting to protect the interests of individual people. And when I say protecting the interests of individual people I do not intend to say that we should fight to protect them for all risks. Risks are a part of life. All stakeholders will experience risks to a lesser or greater extent. For us, actuaries, protecting individuals is not about taking their risks away. We just can’t. In my view, consumer protection is not so much about more capital. It is much more about more information. This information should be unbiased, objective and sufficiently accurate. That is an important element as I see it where we, actuaries, can serve society and have the duty to serve society. So my message is that we serve society best by putting the interests of individuals first and accept humbly that our models are just a means to that goal.”