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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

In the hot seat: David Brand

What was the best moment of your career?
Nothing beats the feeling of receiving my final exam results. Apart from that it was being made appointed actuary and then a director of Hannover Life Re (UK), and contributing to the company’s success and growth over the years.
What phrase or saying do you most overuse?
In the office it has to be: ‘Let’s try to keep this meeting to just one hour.’
What do you do most in your spare time?
I’m a keen tennis player and also spend a great deal of time (and endure a lot of heartache) at White Hart Lane supporting Spurs.
What is the best gadget that you have bought recently?
I’m not really a ‘gadget’ person, unless you count a mobile phone or digital television.
What famous person would you most like to go for a drink with?
I would like to have had a drink with the late Sir Winston Churchill. I’d like to have found out what he really felt and how he motivated the country during the darkest days of the war.
What is the one lesson you have learned that you would pass on to young actuaries?
Pay a lot of attention to your communication and presentation, both written and in person. It seems to be a fact of life that presentation is often as important as content. I would stress that this does not apply when doing the exams, where content is vital.
Are the exams becoming too difficult?
I certainly hope not. Our brief from the Faculty and Institute Councils is to maintain standards and we have various procedures in place to do this. Many students believe exams are getting harder and I suppose this has always been the case. On the other hand, many qualified actuaries believe the opposite. Personally, I feel we are getting things about right. There is no fixed pass mark in any exam and if inadvertently we set either a very easy or difficult paper then we adjust the pass mark to maintain the standard.
What is your advice to students as they prepare to sit exams this month?
The examiners are looking for a reason to pass you. Aside from being fully prepared, please read the paper carefully and answer the questions that are set not the questions you are expecting to see. You may need to think a little more to answer the question set rather than producing the bookwork you know. It seems obvious, but it is one of the most common reasons for failing.
What is your favourite television programme?
Seinfeld (unfortunately no longer being made), closely followed by Frasier.
If you could change one aspect of the actuarial education syllabus what would it be?
I believe communication is becoming more and more important for actuaries. We need to find ways to both teach and examine it better.
What would you like to have been?
A successful striker for Tottenham Hotspur.
How many miles/hours do you estimate you flew last year? What is your favourite airline?
Around 60 hours on business and pleasure. Still British Airways, although they are not as good as they were a few years ago.
What will be the most significant issue facing the actuarial profession in the next decade?
The continued contraction in the number of life assurance companies and the end of the pensions review must mean fewer actuaries will be needed in traditional roles. We want to move into wider fields and to do this we have to convince people in non-traditional areas that we are worth employing.
What do you tell people when they ask you what you do for a living?
I say I’m an actuary and wait for the blank look!
What three things would you bring to a deserted island with you?
Unlimited food and drink, as I certainly won’t be able to hunt or fish. A library of good books. A link to Sky Sports to keep in touch with important matters!
How much influence does the actuarial profession have on your thinking?
Over the years the profession has had a large influence on my thinking. I believe that as appointed actuary some of the qualities which the profession upholds, such as caution and financial prudence, were vital. On the other hand, as part of the general management team, trying to make a business grow, it can sometimes be best not to think as an actuary!
What is the most frequently asked question of you and what is your answer?
As chairman of the Board of Examiners, the question asked most often is how to improve the pass rates and reduce the mean time to qualify. My answer is that as examiners we are trying our best, while maintaining standards. We really do try to pass candidates if we can. The tuition providers, employers and students themselves all also have an important part to play if pass rates are to improve significantly.