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The IFoA Guide to Party Conference

Throughout September and October members of the IFoA executive team have attended the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party conferences - representing the actuarial profession in a whirlwind of networking events and panel discussions with businesses, think tanks, politicians and Government and opposition ministers.

Attending the conferences is an intense experience, but a great opportunity to meet with key decision makers, and connect with other organisations who may be interested in the work of the IFoA. Of course they’re also full of politicians and journalists, which makes them fascinating venues for people watching, particularly for a team of politics junkies.

IFoA Head of Policy, Rebecca Deegan, attended the Liberal Democrat conference in the seaside town of Bournemouth

Coverage of the Conference was dominated by calls to revoke Article 50 in order to reverse Brexit, and to officially declare a climate emergency.

On Climate Change, there were multiple fringe events that discussed the role of pension funds and how many are still invested in carbon-intensive assets, in spite the fact that these cannot be used to generate energy if the world is to meet the Paris Agreement.  

Lifelong learning was another hot topic, with events emphasising the need for the working age population to be supported by the government, and for a focus on retraining as AI changes the nature of the workforce. Speakers argued that numerous roles and functions that are currently conducted by humans are going to become automated, but those skills that make us ‘human’, such as judgement, critical analysis and emotional intelligence, will become increasingly important in a tech-driven economy. Lifelong Learning is a vital part of the IFoA strategy for the future of the actuarial profession. In our fast-paced ever-changing world of work, employers need actuaries who have core actuarial skills, are flexible and can add value to their businesses.

Policy Manager Faye Alessandrello attended Labour Party Conference which was held on 21-25 September 2019 in Brighton.

LabUnsurprisingly, issues surrounding Brexit and the Supreme Court’s decision on whether Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was lawful were hot conference topics. So when the news broke about the unlawful prorogation - MPs had to suddenly drop everything and make a dash back to Westminster, highlighting the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.

In a conference filled with political drama, it was reassuring to hear MPs talk about the policy issues that we prioritise at the IFoA, such as those relating to resource and environment considerations. In his speech to conference, Jeremy Corbyn spoke about the need to address the climate crisis facing out world today, stating, ‘the climate and environmental emergency we all face is an issue of global security’ and this was welcomed, especially by those from the Extinction Rebellion contingent in attendance.

Sustainability was also a core theme running through many of the sessions at conference. The IFoA attended a fringe event in which Ed Miliband MP and Barry Gardiner MP joined an Institute of Public Policy and Research panel session on the topic of ‘decarbonising the economy and delivering a green industrial revolution’. They spoke about how for too long we have treated climate change as an environmental problem, rather than recognising the economic and social issues it creates, and the need for a ‘just’ transition to a low carbon economy, one which also supports a reduction in social inequalities, especially those created by climate change.

Policy Manager Henry Thompson and Senior Policy Analyst Catherine Burtle attended the Conservative conference in Manchester.

The Conservative conference was held against a backdrop of political turmoil back in Westminster, with MPs having voted a few days previously against a parliamentary recess to allow time for the conference to take place. This meant ministers being dropped from the bill at some fringe events as they stayed in London to meet their parliamentary responsibilities.

But the mood at the conference was surprisingly optimistic, and many high profile politicians were nonetheless in attendance. Just like the other conferences, Brexit was the number one hot topic, with massive ‘Get Brexit Done’ banners on display at every turn.

This was the only conference at which the IFoA hosted a fringe event, jointly with the Social Market Foundation think tank. The session was entitled ‘Getting the UK retirement ready in the age of auto-enrolment and pension freedoms’ and two Conservative MPs spoke on the panel alongside the IFoA’s Pensions Board Chair Mark Williams. This included the Pensions Minister Guy Opperman MP. Journalists in attendance at the event were able to get the scoop on the Government’s recently announced Pensions Bill, which it hopes to pass in the next session of Parliament, as Mr Opperman trailed some of its contents in a wide-ranging discussion on the future of retirement saving in the UK.  

The event was also an opportunity for Mark to preview an upcoming piece of IFoA research on pensions adequacy with the Minister, and other industry stakeholders in a packed room in the conference secure zone. The turn-out was impressive, especially given the 8am start time, and any evidence of attendance at the previous evening’s myriad of drinks receptions was barely detectable.

The event was live streamed and can be viewed online