Buck Bond Group
Bringing clarity to a risky world: What it means to be an actuary today

Bringing clarity to a risky world: What it means to be an actuary today

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Actuaries are more than people with a deep love for numbers. We’re world changers. Actuaries use their talents, skill, and education to evaluate risk and uncertainty and we have a hand in solving some of the world’s largest and most difficult challenges including the impact of a pandemic, an aging workforce, and climate change to name a few. We use our abilities to bring protection by reducing risk to our clients, families, and the world.

Given that risk is a fundamental trait of business and government, being able to put numbers to those risks and evaluate ways to limit their impact is imperative. Our professional role is to develop statistical models that help leaders make strategic business decisions. Being an actuary has a mathematical focus but is ultimately about getting better outcomes for people.

Recently the three of us got together to reflect on what it means to each of us to be an actuary.

Focusing on clients – Sarah Brown, U.K. Chief Actuary

Actuaries play a key role as trusted advisers, working alongside our clients to help them with their financial challenges and understand their risks in these uncertain times. As a university student, I spent a summer working in a pension consulting firm and was inspired by the way that actuaries tackle complex technical topics while remaining focused on the impact for their clients and pension scheme members.

The pensions landscape has evolved, with significant amounts of new regulation and guidance published over my career. While in many ways the fundamentals of being an actuary have stayed the same, technological developments mean that actuaries can now run increasingly complex models and can carry out calculations more quickly. This makes it even more important to be able to explain the models we use in simple terms, both to clients and to colleagues, as we advise on suitable actions, along with the associated risks.

Against the backdrop of these changes, my role as an actuary means that I am constantly learning, and continue to develop new skills and deepen my understanding. I find this enormously rewarding.

My advice for aspiring actuaries?

Be curious and learn as much as you can from the people around you. Be flexible and ready to adapt. The world keeps evolving so a young actuary will need to keep learning new skills and adapting the way they work. And finally, enjoy your career and find people who share that passion. I love being an actuary and consider myself privileged to be working with such a talented group of people.

Wider opportunities – Tonya Manning, U.S. Chief Wealth Actuary

When in college, I wasn’t sure how to turn my love for math into a career, but once I was introduced to the world of pension actuarial consulting, I knew it was the perfect fit, allowing me to use my math skills to support businesses and help people through sound actuarial models to secure their pensions.

Actuaries contribute toward a more financially sound world. For my part, I have dedicated my career to helping secure retirement benefits. All of those liabilities and rows of data I have worked with over the years represent people counting on actuaries to help ensure their pension is there for them when they retire.

I love my profession and have devoted a lot of my time supporting it. I have an abiding interest in strengthening the profession, and while president of the International Actuarial Association in 2020, I sought to do so by increasing and coordinating global efforts on improving the profession’s diversity and inclusion.

I’ve also worked toward helping advance the careers of women. I see a world and profession that has progressed significantly since I took my first actuarial exam more than 30 years ago. There are still times when I am the only woman at a meeting, but now I am often the one leading it.

It’s critical that women connect with each other and lift each other up. At Buck, I helped to establish the Women Empowered at Buck, and helped lead the Conference of Consulting Actuaries (CCA) in forming the Women in Consulting Community (WICC). These groups enable women actuaries to share information and experiences, learn through forums and book clubs, or just chat over lunch — all with the aim of helping them better manage both their careers and their lives outside of work.

My advice to aspiring actuaries? Keep going! The path to being an actuary is tough, but the rewards are great. It is the best profession, in my quite biased opinion. And, never simply accept how things have been done in the past. The profession must always evolve, and we need you to challenge us to do just that.

Strategy and measurable results – Kelly Conlin, U.S. Chief Health Actuary

We tend to think of actuaries as exclusive to the world of pensions and insurance, but my field is in healthcare. While I began my career as a pension actuary and became interested in health and welfare and switched gears to pursue a new career path and never looked back!

There will always be a need for analytic minded professionals that can support and provide a strong business case for healthcare (or other business) strategy with data and measure results.

The evolution of the profession has expanded the opportunities available and the perception of an actuary’s role within their organization. A recent example is the role health actuaries played during the pandemic helping employers measure and manage their healthcare spend during a period of enormous uncertainty by using predictive models to forecast future budgets.

My advice to aspiring professionals? Embrace change and take risks! Don’t be afraid to follow a non-linear career path to pursue your interests! Get involved in opportunities to learn and expand your skill set.

Keep going

To those of you who are already actuaries, keep making a difference in the world. To those of you pushing through exam after exam, keep going. The path to being an actuary is tough, but the rewards are great. To those of you who support actuaries, thank you. You are using your talents, skill, and education to keep our work moving forward. You are the organizers, the managers, the motivators, and we are successful in big part because of you.