One of the greatest silver linings for the CAS in 2020 was proving that a new collaborative operating model between CAS staff and volunteers was not only necessary, but actually works and works really well!
With significant change foisted upon us by the environmental changes from COVID-19 and under the leadership of Victor Carter-Bey and the CAS Board, we made tremendous strides toward a new way of working between volunteers and staff. Recognizing the need for change in how we work to best serve the current and future needs of our candidates and members, the evolving staff-volunteer model makes the best use out of the talents of staff and volunteers.
Three examples help illustrate the success of the new collaborative model.
Given the fact that we could not offer the spring examinations for sundry reasons, we had to prepare for ensuring that we could administer the Fall Exams. Under our existing model, our plans were to transition exams to computer-based testing (CBT) in stages over 18 to 24 months. But to pull off a successful fall sitting for all CAS exams, we needed to speed up that timeframe by six months. This was a Herculean effort and required an all-hands-on-deck mentality to bring the project to fruition. Through the leadership of CAS Chief Learning Officer Jennifer Naughton, her CAS Admissions staff, a few CAS staff actuaries, and a host of Admissions volunteers, the CAS was able to move this effort forward effectively. The full-time staff at the CAS expanded their operational scope of responsibility and decision-making to keep the initiative moving forward while CAS volunteers lent their actuarial subject matter expertise to question-writing and grading. For CAS Admissions, assigning staff the day-to-day operational work and relying on the volunteers for actuarial knowledge and thought leadership were profound changes — changes that worked brilliantly.
The collaborative effort between the CAS volunteers and staff on the University Engagement Committee is the stuff that dreams are made of.
CAS Student Central Summer Program
This second example is an initiative that we never even had on the radar screen for 2020. The thought that came to be known as the CAS Student Central Summer Program started when we began to hear news that some students’ summer internships were being cancelled due to the pandemic. We nurtured the idea of offering students something from the CAS that could give them solid property-casualty actuarial skills, general business skills, group projects and mentoring. In a matter of weeks, we went from thought to execution to over 600 program applications, the latter of which compelled us to create two slightly different programs to accommodate the overwhelming demand — a mentor-guided program and an independent study program.
The collaborative effort between the CAS volunteers and staff on the University Engagement Committee is the stuff that dreams are made of. Galvanizing staff and volunteers to develop the eight-week program (with case studies!) and soliciting volunteers to mentor, present and judge — all while staff ironed out the details of how all this would operate virtually — are dreams come true. I especially appreciate the work of CAS Director of Engagement Tamar Gertner, who was instrumental in making the Summer Program succeed. The common mission of offering this unique educational experience to these students was really the beating heart that made this come alive so successfully.
A New CAS Strategic Plan
This example highlights the collaboration among the CAS Board, Executive Council and staff. Historically, updates and refreshes to strategic plans were conducted primarily by the board in consultation with the executive council and, ultimately, some input from the CAS staff (mostly on the back end of the process). Recognizing inclusion as a core value and that the CAS staff would be taking on more authority and accountability to bring the new Strategic Plan to life, we determined that it only made sense to work throughout 2020 as one collaborative unit.
We quickly learned that removing any sense of hierarchy from our approach was the most proper way to move forward. We also recognized that jointly developing the new CAS Envisioned Future — “CAS members are sought after globally for their insights and ability to apply analytics to solve insurance and risk management problems” — gave us that common goal that unified this collaborative work. The result is a Strategic Plan like no other the CAS has created. The plan is both unified and comprehensive, shows where clear ownership of the operational aspects of the plan are divided between staff and volunteers, and acknowledges that volunteers are primarily relied upon for their actuarial knowledge and insights.
As we move into 2021, I am excited to move the Strategic Plan forward and tackle new issues that come to the CAS Board. I am so proud of what the CAS accomplished in 2020 and that I could be a part of it as president.