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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Trailblazer

What motivated you to be an actuary?
I started thinking about an actuarial career during my A levels because: (i) it seemed to fit well with a maths degree; (ii) it was a small profession and so I wouldn’t just be ‘one of the crowd’; (iii) someone told me that actuaries were well paid.

Has the profession changed much since you first came aboard?
Just a bit! The surge in computer processing power has caused massive changes in the way that we do things and in what we do. I also think that the profession is less formal and hierarchical than it was and is less dominated by balding grey men in rumpled grey suits, although, looking in the mirror, I accept that that might be a relative perception! But it is still recognisably the same profession, with many of the same virtues and vices that it had when I joined in 1983.

You are coming to the end of your tenure as chairman of the General Insurance Board. What do you see as the major challenges that the board and the general insurance community face in the future?
Notwithstanding recent bad press, the profession has a glorious past. The main challenge it faces is to ensure it has a glorious present and future as well. Some of the characteristics and skills that have served actuaries well in the past have been left redundant by the advance of technology and changing needs of stakeholders. To justify our salaries (the advice I received during A levels was not wrong!) we need to remain relevant, and to evolve so that we can meet stakeholders’ requirements. The profession has undertaken to support actuaries’ careers and meeting these changing demands will be a major undertaking.
This is particularly relevant within the general insurance arena, where actuarial techniques are less developed than in other areas and where there are few roles clearly delineated to actuaries. To ensure that general insurance actuaries stay on top of their game, about three years ago (before I became chairman) the GI Board commissioned a review of the involvement of actuaries in general insurance liability reserving, which was completed last year. While the review highlighted much that we did that was good and well appreciated, it also highlighted areas where we could and, I believe, should do better. There is a lot of work to be done in developing more reliable methodologies and in honing further the broader understanding of the reserving actuary, and this is something in which the GI Board is taking a lead.
Enthused by how well that review was progressing, the board also commissioned a review of the involvement of actuaries in general insurance premium rating. That review has just reported, again identifying much that we can be proud of but also aspects that could be improved. This will provide a further challenge for the board and for the general insurance community.


How did you first become interested in sitting on professional boards and what advice do you have for young actuaries interested in getting involved?
When I qualified it was still considered (at least by my employer) to be good personal development for young naïve actuaries to get involved with the profession, through exam-marking, tutoring, or, as in my case, joining the SIAS Committee. It was an experience I enjoyed, mostly because I got to meet and work with a wide range of interesting people. Since then I have been continuously involved, through working parties, committees, the GI Board, and latterly Institute Council.
As for young actuaries interested in getting involved, my advice is ‘just do it’. There are always plenty of things going on and there is usually a shortage of volunteers, so there should be something that appeals to everyone. Indeed, we need more volunteers, especially those with energy to spare and fresh ideas. Otherwise we run the risk that the profession becomes hidebound and moribund.
Involvement in professional committees, working parties, etc is not a sinecure (and anyone who treats it as such will soon become very unpopular with their colleagues). It takes effort and it takes time, and spare time is something that many actuaries don’t have a lot of. But from my own experience, and I believe that of many others, it can be personally very rewarding, as well as helping drive forward the profession.

What do you do to relax?
I am married, I have two school-age children, a house that seems to be continually in a state of disrepair, and a garden overrun with weeds. They comprise most of my ‘relaxation’. Fortunately, the development of the personal mp3 player has enabled me to combine lawn-mowing, DIY, etc with my obsession with music, as epitomised by a large and eclectic assortment of vinyl and CDs.

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