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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Trailblazer: Richard Reid

Richard Reid has worked for HSBC for 18 years in a variety of roles including head of insurance for the bank in Malta for four years. He is now CEO of HSBC Actuaries and Consultants

What motivated you to pursue an actuarial career and what contributed to your decision to become an actuary?
It wasn’t a decision I made until I left university and was looking for a career that would make the most of my mathematical skills. I was impressed by the individuals I met during interviews and that helped seal my decision that this was the right sort of career for me.

Has the profession changed much since you first came on board?
Massively — through technological developments and the need to communicate with a wide-ranging audience. I think actuaries now have to be much more transparent in what we do and be prepared to justify our conclusions to ever-more challenging customers.

You have spent a large part of your life in banking. Do you feel your background as an actuary has positively impacted your career?
While I’ve worked within a banking organisation for the majority of my career, I’ve still been primarily involved with insurance and pensions business areas. I benefited enormously from joining a small bancassurance company in the early stages of its life, which gave me the opportunity of fulfilling a number of different roles. Working within the banking industry improves your communication skills, gives you exposure to a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds from which to learn and exposes you to a strong culture of corporate governance, risk management and internal controls. Working within an organisation such as HSBC also opens great career development opportunities across a wide range of different industry sectors and geographies.

What can actuaries learn from the banking world and what can actuaries teach bankers?
A common area of concern for both actuaries and bankers is risk management and I think there is a lot to learn from both the insurance and banking sectors. Working within a bank, actuaries will learn a lot about leadership skills and communication. Similarly, bankers can learn a lot from actuaries in terms of long-term financial management but only if actuaries can translate their thoughts into banking language.

What excites or intrigues you about the business world and how can actuaries make their mark outside the traditional fields?
The recent problems within financial and banking markets highlight the need for businesses to be ever vigilant and to manage risk. I think actuaries should be playing a leading role in this area. We have a wide range of technical skills that, aligned to business skill-sets, should mean we can add value to businesses in a wide range of circumstances.

You trained in the UK but spent four years running HSBC’s insurance businesses in Malta. What advice do you have for other actuaries trying to break into international fields?
If you get the chance, go for it!

You have just been appointed as CEO of HSBC Actuaries and Consultants Ltd. (HACL), which will involve a move into the pensions industry. What do you think the key challenges are for those moving across the traditional actuarial disciplines and how do you think that they can be overcome?
I think it very much depends on the role. As CEO of a business that provides a wide range of corporate advice and employs individuals from a wide range of professional backgrounds, my job is not really actuarial in nature. I am the leader of the business, with responsibility for executing strategy and ensuring the business is run well from a corporate governance perspective. My main challenge is to ensure I’ve got the right team around me doing the right things. If I was moving across disciplines into a ‘function holder’ role, then the challenge would be very different and one which any actuary would have to be appropriately trained and developed for.

Of your many career accomplishments, what do you consider the most satisfying?
I greatly enjoyed the challenge of moving abroad, running an insurance business and getting everyone involved 100% behind me. It was particularly satisfying that, as a result of my time abroad, I was then asked to run such a prestigious company as HACL.

How do you personally measure success?
By the success of everyone around me.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in business?
To show that you care, to fulfil your promises, to empower where appropriate but get involved where necessary.

What do you do to relax?
Not easy at present given the new role and the move back to the UK. Once I’ve settled down it will be through lots of golf and family time.