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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Unsung heroes / Photo competition

As you rise through the ranks of the actuarial world, your bonus may not rise as fast as you’d like but your reliance on a good secretary certainly does. I’ve been blessed with great secretaries throughout my career; without them my working life would be considerably more stressful. I imagine the further up the food chain you get, the more this holds true.

I have very little time for client and personal administration - both in the temporal sense and in terms of level of interest. Nothing fills my world with dread like the word compliance. So I salute any secretary who can both answer accurately and does not seem phased by inane questions such as "Can you get me a client code for...", "Can you print out all the reports in the X drive?".

Making the best use of a secretary also develops over time. The more client presentations you scrawl all over in illegible handwriting, the more they develop the knack of understanding your hieroglyphics.

These are but two tasks that make a secretary invaluable. Other obvious tasks include organising meeting packs, organising your diary, PDFing, printing, and so on. However, it is the combination of freeing your time and the softer benefits that make a secretary priceless.

While the world becomes ever more globalised, some cultural quirks will always remain. There are a few things that, for me, are necessary to get through the working day. Tea is most certainly one of them. Every morning, after battling through the hordes, it is immensely satisfying to sit down at your desk and, as you are organising what you are going to do for the day, have your secretary say: "Come on then, let’s go and grab a proper tea."

Secretaries can often provide that other missing ingredient of an actuarial office - good banter. Sarcasm and self-deprecation are the cornerstones of English wit, and a secretary that helps facilitate that is very useful. Over the years I’ve realised sarcasm in front of your boss is perhaps not the best strategy to becoming "the next bright young thing" and work by its very nature is a serious place. Jokes with your secretary are an ideal mechanism for unloading your stored-up banter. This is even more enjoyable if the aforementioned secretary is also funny.

A final but unexpected benefit is that a good secretary can act as a font of knowledge to rival the internet. I’d wager we all spend too much time at work, which results in me needing to organise parts of my personal life at work. A good secretary can be an invaluable source of knowledge for many a non-work related task with the uncanny knack of having the answer immediately to hand.

So I salute my current secretary and the ranks of unsung heroes in our offices.


Snaps with GAAPS 2010
In February, inspired by its light-hearted blog, TravelGaaps.com, The Actuary teamed up with GAAPS to launch a photography competition under the theme of ‘international finance’. The entries have been winging their way to us from different corners of the globe and much debate has ensued as to who should scoop the prizes.

Many congratulations therefore to Bruno Monteiro da Silva whose tarnished Banks image seemed a fitting statement on recent times. Bruno wins a private tour of Venice and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection provided by the GAAPS Group. Congratulations also go to our runners-up, Michael Abramson, Rosalind Roussouw and Jim Buchan who each receive a bottle of champagne for their commendable efforts. Their photos are shown below.

Thanks to all those who participated. Be sure to look out for similar competitions in the future

Over to you
Matt and Finn welcome your comments and contributions. Please e-mail arts@the-actuary.org.uk