This week’s Share your Story is the second part of a two-part series featuring Monique Hacker, FSA, MAAA and past president of the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) from 2013-2016.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part I, where we discuss the beginnings of Monique’s actuarial career, along with an important reflection on prioritization and work/life balance.
The IABA was founded in 1992 by a group of actuaries that got together to create an organization with the goal of increasing the number of black actuaries in the actuarial profession.
The IABA began annual meetings with a seven city rotation (Atlanta, Chicago, New York/New Jersey, Boston, Delaware Valley, Washington DC and Hartford) and continued to expand as they extended membership to college and high school students as well.
In 2018, the IABA Annual Meeting attendance exceeded 450 members. And in 2020, the IABA held their first virtual conference due to COVID- 19 and had over 1,200 live participants.
Now in 2022, the IABA recognizes its part in increasing the number of black actuaries and hopes to continue to spread awareness and equal opportunity across the profession.
Q: What was your first encounter with the IABA?
A: I attended my first IABA conference in 2002 but did not attend another conference until 2008. I was really impressed with the growth and ended up volunteering that same year. In 2009, while at the annual conference, the organization helped me connect with other black actuaries that were also living in the Tampa Bay area. I began networking and found more local actuaries to join the IABA.
My first volunteer effort with the organization was on the Annual Meeting Planning committee. I ended up being a part of the committee and then ultimately led the committee for several years. After a few years of volunteering, I was asked if I would consider becoming the President of the organization. My initial feeling was that I was fairly inexperienced for this position. However, after several conversations with my family and Mentors, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity, despite my initial fears. One of the most important benefits that IABA offers its members, is leadership opportunities in a supportive and non-threatening environment. I had a lot of support within and outside the organization who supported me taking on the role as president.
Q: How have you seen the organization (IABA) change over the years?
A: The demographics of our leadership team have changed over time, mainly the age and years of experience of our members. Both of these characteristics have decreased over time. Our leaders are mostly newer FSAs with less than 10 years in their actuarial profession. I think this is great and should be celebrated. I’m not aware of any other organization of our size, that provides this level of exposure and development of their members. Participation at this level not only benefits our organization but it also benefits the employers of these members.
On the other hand, another change I’ve noticed over the years is the number of engaged and active volunteers. The pandemic has definitely played a big part in the inconsistency we’ve seen. Our volunteers are an integral part of the success of our organization, but the number of volunteers and leaders have waned over the last few years. Now that we are back to having face to face interactions, we expect our numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Our volunteers typically start their journey with us while they are still in college or just starting their professional careers. As they approach different milestones in their personal lives their availability to volunteer diminishes. They are now taking on more responsibility at work and starting their families.
Once our volunteers and leaders go through this priority shift, they are unable to maintain the same level of commitment to IABA. That is a constant dynamic that we, as an organization, continue to navigate.
Q: What is the process to join the IABA?
A: To become a member of the organization, everyone needs to sign up through our website at www.blackactuaries.org. We do have a membership fee associated with everyone that joins. For those enrolled in college or high school, their fees are kept very low. There are several benefits associated with being a member including, but not limited to, participation in our exam prep program, discounts on annual meeting registration and participation in affiliate events.
Q: What are some of the main takeaways that you’re hoping that members get from the Association?
A: It goes back to the fact that we’re able to develop our skills in a friendly environment. Our members are able to learn and put into practice their leadership skills by leading committees. They are also able to network with others that have similar backgrounds. As we grow as leaders we receive support from Mentors assigned to us through the organization.
Developing lifelong friendships is also a wonderful outcome of being involved with IABA. I have gained great friends and support systems over the years.
IABA also offers scholarships for those enrolled in colleges and universities. For those of us who are no longer in college, we can earn continuing education credits through professional development sessions at our annual meeting. Throughout the year, there are also social events, hosted by several of our Affiliates, located throughout the US and Canada.
Those are some of the benefits that I have taken advantage of while being involved with the organization and are available to our members.
Q: Do you have any advice for actuaries looking to get involved in the IABA?
A: We can always use volunteers, and just to be clear, our volunteers are not limited to those that are black. Our volunteers are everyone who supports our mission. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about supporting IABA to just do it. We have lots of volunteer opportunities and they are fully customizable based on your interests.
We look forward to having as many that can help us get the word out, whether it’s through social media, or attending career days at schools, etc. By doing so, we are helping the profession at large, not just IABA. This is a profession that is not well known, regardless of race, so we should all work together to get the word out.
Q: Finally, what have been some of your favorite moments of your career? Or is there a favorite moment of your career that comes in mind?
A: Definitely being done with the exams. Getting the result from that last exam that said I passed has been the most exciting accomplishment. A true example of hard work paying off. And to top it off, I was able to receive an additional award on stage at that year’s IABA Annual Meeting to celebrate my accomplishment.
Other favorite moments involve meeting so many wonderful people. I have developed lifelong friendships with some great people and would not have been able to do so without being involved in this profession.
If you are interested in learning more about the IABA and getting involved, please be sure to check out their website – https://www.blackactuaries.org/page/WhoweareStory
Article written by Marilyn Simpson; transcribed & edited by Cynthia Perez.