“Why have our professions lost their mojo?” – asks Hilary Salt



Have a listen to this Podcast from my colleague Hilary Salt.

Hilary’s on from 10.50 and is talking about the constraints on professionals and the loss of confidence in professional bodies such as hers (the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries).

She asks those hard questions that no-one else dares ask (and most have not even thought of).

Why – for instance – have actuaries allowed themselves to submit their authority to the judgement of experts – especially when those experts are nothing more than actuaries (in disguise). She points out that teachers are now brought in to teach teachers, doctors doctors and so on.

In a felicitous phrase she describes as the implosion of the Equitable Life as the actuaries “mid-Staffordshire moment”. I like that, it seems that a failure leads to auto-castration.

There is a fine line, of course, between the self-confidence needed to be professional and the arrogance that excludes non-professional opinion from the process.

I must be careful here as I am not a professional actuary and am – to use another Hilaryism, referred to by my actuarial friends as ‘the overhead’.  It gives me great pleasure to be excluded from the inner sanctum of the actuarial professions. After all -who would want to join any club that would accept me! I’m happy being the overhead!

The proper relationship between actuaries and those who are expert can be defined as King Lear and his fool. I will play the fool and poke fun at actuaries. But they will exercise power – however foolishly!

I think a healthy dynamic should exist between professionals and those outside the profession but that there must be a priori respect for that profession. I agree with Hilary that we must respect the doctor’s judgement, the teacher’s judgement and the actuary’s judgement.

If these professions choose to walk away from their responsibilities and stop healing, teaching and predicting, then they will lose my respect.

So keep on keeping on Hilary Salt, good luck at the battle of ideas. Your best critic is your foolish overhead – God help you!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to “Why have our professions lost their mojo?” – asks Hilary Salt

  1. George Kirrin says:

    Hilary is on the money here, but this could be some of my confirmatory bias showing?

    I used to be puzzled by GB Shaw’s observation that all professions were a conspiracy against the laity, but learned that he had the medical profession in his sights when he said it or wrote it. How he extended that remark from one profession to all, I do not know.

    My observation would be that professions lost their mojo when they put commercial interests ahead of their professional judgments. I recall quite a well known accountant who publicly cancelled his membership to one of the accounting institutes because he said they were no longer the profession he had once joined, and now seemed to him to be a business first and foremost.

    I’m old enough to remember professional people who obviously did quite well financially but they did not flaunt it, or play me-too games with some of their clients who had become as or more wealthy than they were. Perhaps it was the relaxations in marketing of the professions which contributed to their steps down in our estimation as well?

    Maybe, as in politics, we simply need more women at the top of the professions, as well as at the entry and middling levels?

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