Actuarial Specialists John Stroumbos, Daniel Khalilov, and Crage Lu recently passed actuarial exams, thereby advancing their efforts in becoming credentialed actuaries. By passing a set of rigorous exams and other requirements administered by the Society of Actuaries, actuarial students, those working in the actuarial profession and at the same time studying and taking exams, become credentialed actuaries. These Actuarial Specialists have progressed toward becoming ASAs or Associates of the Society of Actuaries.
These students have devoted hundreds of hours to properly prepare for their exams and online learning requirements. The Society of Actuaries (SOA), a professional organization for actuaries based in North America, is one of the professional actuarial associations that governs actuarial credentialing. Acquiring actuarial credentials has widespread recognition in the field and offers professional distinction. The actuarial skills and knowledge gained through the examination and credentialing process form the basis for actuarial work at the OA and supplement the knowledge base gained on the job.
While in Washington D.C. attending both an American Academy of Actuaries Pension Practice Council meeting and the Academy Annual Meeting, Chief Actuary Chan took some time to visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) to speak to their actuarial staff about the work of the New York City Office of the Actuary (NYCOA).
With both the SSA and the NYCOA responsible for taking care of systems that provide important income in retirement, Chief Actuary Chan shared background information on the work of the NYCOA to highlight the similarities between both offices and their missions.
Chief Actuary Chan explained the mission and structure of the NYCOA and the responsibilities and services provided by the staff to the five major actuarially-funded NYC Retirement Systems and Pension Funds such as the pension valuation work, certification of benefits, and fiscal note preparation. Preparing the financial impact of proposed legislation on pension changes, known in New York City and State as a fiscal note, so legislators understand the cost of the item they’re voting on, is an important function of both agencies. Following the presentation, both agencies discussed the similarities in providing financial impact analysis since both the SSA and the NYCOA handle a significant volume of requests in this area.
Chief Actuary Chan also discussed the political process of successfully adopting proposed pension improvements with labor and political leaders as in the recent calculations for pension disability enhancements for some New York City uniformed personnel.
Additionally, as the Chief Actuary for the largest municipal plan in the United States, Chief Actuary Chan cited examples of how she uses her role to provide a voice for defined benefit plans in the never-ending debate on the viability of state and local pension plans nationwide. Chief Actuary Chan uses public speaking appearances, editorial press pieces, and information shared on the NYCOA Twitter page, to provide insight and documentation on the sustainability and value of defined benefit plans for public workers, not only in NYC, but nationwide.
Social Security Administration’s Chief Actuary Stephen Goss, along with the Deputy Chief Actuary Karen Glenn, visited the NYCOA and delivered an insightful overview of the Social Security program as part of the NYCOA’s ongoing professional development program. The presentation included sharing information and discussing issues that impact both the Social Security program and the New York City Retirement Systems and Pensions Funds (NYCRS) such as recent mortality experiences and possible trends, the application of COLA in calculating benefits, the use of actuarial sound principles to consistently monitor the revenue to meet the cost of benefits, and the factoring of Social Security payments when calculating NYCRS benefits.
Additionally, the staff of the NYCOA learned about the two legally distinct trust funds administered by Social Security: the OASI, Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and the DI, Disability Insurance. Chief Actuary Goss and Deputy Glenn described the funds’ pay-as-you-go financing system, the contingency reserve, and the changing age distribution resulting from a permanent drop in birth rates after 1965.
As stated in their 2017 Social Security Trustees Report, as of December 2016, about 61 million people were getting benefits and Social Security had $2.85 trillion in asset reserves; however, the program’s reserves will be depleted by 2034 if Congress does not take steps to address the situation. The Social Security Administration released a report in October of 2017 outlining a broad range of provisions, approximately 150, that would change the Social Security program and address trust fund solvency. Proposals include changes to the cost-of-living adjustment, level of monthly benefits, retirement age, family members, payroll taxes, coverage of employment, trust fund investment in equities, and taxation of benefits. This summary of provisions also includes the resulting financial effects of each proposal. Chief Actuary Goss noted that historically Congress has always acted in time to avoid reserve depletion.
"I am appreciative to the leading Social Security actuaries for taking the time to share their actuarial experiences and challenges with my staff. Although our responsibilities focus on two different programs, we share a lot in common, especially our dedication to maintaining sound retirement plans for our participants," said Sherry S. Chan, Chief Actuary.
To view the entire PowerPoint presentation made to the NYCOA staff, please visit this link
The Society of Actuaries (SOA), a professional organization for actuaries based in North America, is one of the professional actuarial associations that governs actuarial credentialing. Through successful completion of exams, actuarial students become credentialed actuaries through years of hard work and study. These credentials have widespread recognition in the field and in the world and offer professional distinction.
In an effort to support and give back to the profession by helping others advance their careers by becoming more credentialed, NYCOA Administrative Actuaries, Craig Chu and Carol Hasday, recently served as proctors for SOA actuarial exams.
The two proctored exams, administered in early November by the Society of Actuaries at Manhattan’s Downtown Conference Center, were advanced-level exams and in many cases one of the final barriers to full credentialing by the SOA.
Both Craig and Carol are Fellows of the Society of Actuaries and Enrolled Actuaries. In addition to the variety of actuarial work and services they perform at the NYCOA, Craig oversees the exam study program for actuarial students here. Carol is the resident historian and has documented the history of the OA, in particular the pioneering pension work performed by New York City’s first Chief Actuary, George B. Buck.
Joined by friends, colleagues, and representatives of the NYCRS family, Chief Actuary Chan received the City & State 2017 "40 under 40 Rising Star" award at a reception on October 25th at The Sky Room in Manhattan.
"Although there is no greater honor than serving the members of the New York City Retirement Systems by taking care of their pensions, this honor certainly comes close! Thank you to City & State for this recognition and congratulations to many of my colleagues in government who received this recognition with me. New York City government was well represented in the 2017 class!"
In addition to Chief Actuary Chan, staff members from Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, New York City Public Advocate’s Office, New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, New York City Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, Office of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Councilman Mark Levine, and New York City Conflicts of Interest Board were also named a 2017 City & State "40 under 40 Rising Star."
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries gave the keynote address at the reception and in his remarks he challenged all the honorees by stating, "A little rebellion is a good thing every now and then. What will history say about how these rising stars responded in the midst of a storm?"
Organized by the US-China Business Training Center, 25 Chinese professionals from the National Bureau of Statistics for the People’s Republic of China and similar type agencies from China’s major cities and provinces, visited the NYCOA. Looking to gain some knowledge and perspective on the actuarial practices and management of public pension plans, the delegation met with New York City Chief Actuary Sherry S. Chan to learn more about her role and responsibilities in safeguarding the five major actuarially-funded New York City Retirement Systems and Pension Funds.
Chief Actuary Chan provided details on many aspects of New York City’s retirement systems including the OA’s status as an independent, non-mayoral agency, and its mandate to provide certain actuarial services to the five major pension funds. Discussions also centered around the make-up of the Boards of the retirement systems and the different pension tier structures, actuarial assumptions and audits, the difference between a defined benefit and a defined contribution retirement vehicle, as well as the OA’s role in producing fiscal notes.
"Time and time again, New York City is where people turn to gain knowledge about government practices. It’s always my pleasure to represent New York City in interactions with national, and in this case, international leaders and practitioners in the industry. I was happy to hear at the conclusion of our discussions that they enjoyed the visit and learned a great deal about the Chief Actuary’s role in the financial health of the well-deserved pensions of our public workers. As a Chinese-American, it was also very humbling to interact with peers from my own heritage and learn how proud they are that an Asian-American is serving in the role as Chief Actuary for the fourth largest retirement system in the country," said Sherry S. Chan, New York City Chief Actuary.
According to a report by the Society of Actuaries and LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute, titled, "The Future of Retirement in China/ History, Systems, and Review," China has an estimated 3,000 provincial, territorial, and city pension funds managed by local governments that adapt retirement policies for the economic needs of their cities. Public pension benefits vary depending on where you live, on employer type (public or private), and on status as an urban or rural resident.
The US-China Business Training Center is a China State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) certified provider of professional training programs for Chinese officials, industry professionals, and business executives. The Center arranges visits with institutions, universities, and speakers across the United States for Chinese delegations in an effort to facilitate academic, business, and cultural discussions.
The current and two past New York City Chief Actuaries were participants in a panel for NYCOA staff as part of the office’s professional development series. Current NYC Chief Actuary, Sherry S. Chan, appointed in May of 2015, was joined by her predecessors, former NYC Chief Actuary Robert North, who served from 1990 to 2014, and former NYC Chief Actuary Jonathan Schwartz, who served from 1974 to 1986.
Prior to the presentation, NYCOA staff members had the opportunity to submit questions for the panelists to address. These questions covered a variety of topics, such as the panelists’ career path, reasons and background on why the panelists took the NYC Chief Actuary job, accomplishments during their tenures as Chief Actuaries, challenges faced by the panelists during their tenures, and advice for the current NYCOA staff.
"Through guest speakers, both internal and external, we routinely invest time to encourage professional and personal growth. Inviting back a bit of history to our office, through hosting a NYC Chief Actuary Panel, gave us all some perspective and insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by leaders of the NYCOA. The remarks, personal stories, and advice were enlightening and helpful to the entire team," said New York City Chief Actuary Sherry S. Chan.
Pictured here with the Chief Actuaries (from left to right) - Sherry Chan, Bob North, and Jonathan Schwartz - is actuarial specialist, Vijay K. Kohli (far left), who is the supervisor of the NYCOA’s Certification Services Division. Vijay has served the NYCOA for 33 years and is the sole NYCOA staff member who has worked under all three Chief Actuaries.
The Director of Communications for the New York City Office of the Actuary, Marlene Markoe-Boyd, was invited to speak at a Public Relations Writing course at St. John’s University, Staten Island Campus. Ms. Markoe-Boyd’s presentation to a group of predominantly third and fourth year Communication students included background about the work and mission of the NYCOA, an overview on how the pension funds of the five major New York City Retirement Systems are funded, the communication plans and goals of the office, and the sharing of some fundamental best practices of the public relations profession. Following the class students were instructed to write a press release on the presentation including information on the NYCOA and its public relations efforts.
Members of all U.S. based actuarial organizations are bound by a Code of Professional Conduct that guides professional behavior and practices. The New York City Office of the Actuary maintains a strict policy of following this code in all of the actuarial services it provides.
Actuarial Standards of Practice, commonly referred to as ASOPs in the actuarial field, form an integral part of this Code of Professional Conduct. ASOPs, developed by the Actuarial Standards Board, provide guidance and direction for actuarial work performed in the U.S.; they identify what an actuary should consider, document, and disclose when working on an actuarial project. These “best practices” guidelines are designed to protect both the public and the profession as they set professional standards helping actuaries validate, substantiate, and document their reasoning.
In an effort to continually sharpen skills and practices on the application of ASOPs, OA staff recently participated in a professional training and development exercise focusing on these ASOPs. Each staff member of the OA was assigned to a team, and working collaboratively, each team considered a case study and its relation to ASOP 35: Selection of Demographic and Other Noneconomic Assumptions for Measuring Pension Obligations. During an office-wide staff gathering, each team answered their particular question through presentations that included a variety of creative and visual techniques. The goal of each presentation was to explore issues related to the ASOP, promote teamwork and collectively educate each other on the application of ASOP 35 principles in pension related scenarios, including those that staff at the OA might encounter on a day-to-day basis.
"From the individual group planning meetings to the presentations themselves, this exercise encouraged cross-divisional interactions and helped us develop and maintain best practices that apply to the important actuarial role we play in monitoring and sustaining the financial health of the City’s pension funds" said Sherry S. Chan, Chief Actuary.
The New York City Office of the Actuary (NYCOA) is serving on a committee charged with studying mortality in public pension plans. The committee is being led by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) Retirement Plans Experience Committee (RPEC) and it is the first time a study has focused exclusively on an analysis of mortality for public service employees. The Public Pension Mortality Study is analyzing a dataset of approximately 45 million life years which covers public service employees over a five year period. In order to review potential variations in mortality rates within this population, the committee is currently undergoing a multivariate analysis to include variables that may affect mortality, such as job classification and geographic region. The committee expects to issue an exposure draft report in the fall of 2018 with the issuance of a final report in the spring of 2019. There will be several months dedicated to an exposure period to allow for the study to be reviewed within the industry.
Mortality studies attempt to predict life expectancy and death rates; therefore they are a resource often used by actuaries to help determine the level of funding a pension plan needs to fulfill their commitments to members.
Frankie Chen, Administrative Actuary, is the staff member serving on this committee as a representative of our office.
On Wednesday, May 10, Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray honored Hasan Minhaj at the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Reception at Gracie Mansion. Minhaj is an American comedian of Indian descent who most recently performed at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
New York City’s Chief Actuary Sherry Chan joined several other Administration officials in attendance including Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Nisha Agarwal; Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong; NYC Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi; NYC Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer; and Mayor’s Office of Contract Services Michael Owh.
Along with 48 seasoned executives and emerging leaders, Gregory Zelikovsky, an Actuary with the NYCOA, graduated from the Leadership Institute, one of New York City’s Executive Development Programs. The Citywide Executive Development Programs provide specialized development and networking opportunities for seasoned executives and emerging leaders within City government.
These programs offer participants the unique opportunity to work with and learn from current executive and senior-level City managers; recognized thought leaders and authors; as well as leadership practitioners from academia, government, and the private and nonprofit sectors. The talent of both the faculty and program participants distinguishes these programs as premier development opportunities in City government.
Chief Actuary Sherry Chan, with members of her leadership team, Sam Rumley, Deputy Chief Actuary and Keith Snow, General Counsel, along with the office’s Director of Communications, Marlene Markoe-Boyd, participated in a Master of Science in Actuarial Science ProSeminar at Columbia University.
Through a PowerPoint presentation and a question and answer session following individual remarks, each member of the team discussed his or her duties with the Office of the Actuary, sharing examples of the types of work and challenges they each face in providing actuarial services to the City’s five major retirement systems and pension funds. Approximately 100 students attended the ProSeminar.