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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Soapbox: In praise of pioneers

In time, a wheel turns full circle. 
In the first few volumes of the actuarial journal dating back to 1851 are papers relating to fire and other forms of general insurance. Yet, just around 15 years ago, when I started conducting general insurance salary surveys, there were only approximately 100 general insurance actuaries and general insurance was at that time being hailed as the new area for actuaries to explore.

When I first became an actuary, my dream was to become the first female stockbroker. It’s just as well that I didn’t, as the first lady stockbroker was ‘drummed out’. Back then, there were many actuaries in the investment field sliding up and down the yield curves. Now, there appears to be a relatively small number of investment actuaries in relation to the total number of actuaries that now exist. Why has this departure from such a lucrative field occurred? Dare I say that the Profession has not made it easy for them to remain within its folds?

I joined the Argonauts Dining Club about 25 years ago and I am proud to have been elected as chairperson of the club this year. The Argonauts is a dining club for actuaries working in the non-traditional fields or in 
non-standard occupations such 
as investment. 
Its remit has recently been widened to include general insurance actuaries as there were no specific dining clubs to cater for them. When I joined, I was an academic actuary and there were only a few academic actuaries — now there are many.

But why are actuaries turning away from the profession either by lapsing their membership or just denying or converting their membership to Affiliate status? I am particularly aware of this trend as chairperson of Argonauts, because it directly affects my members.

Most of these could be a case of ‘what’s in it for me?’ syndrome and, even worse, for some there are actually advantages in lapsing. Now that Type 3 membership of the Institute has been abolished, wider-fields actuaries must attend professionalism courses run by the Profession. As mentioned on the People/Society pages in the October 2011 edition of The Actuary on Argonauts: actuaries journeying though uncharted waters, the current CPD costs and bureaucracy are forcing experienced wider-field actuaries out of the profession.

Nobody argues that CPD is not a good thing but it must be relevant and appropriate. Many actuaries in the wider fields must not only pay their own professional subscriptions, but also fees for attendance at courses. However, money is only a small part of it. There is also the dismay that comes from having to take time out of their precious holiday allowance for attendance.

There seems to me to be few advantages in remaining a full member of the Profession rather than the cheaper version of an affiliate unless one is a ‘signing’ actuary or relishes in kudos the membership this exclusive club provides.

Why have I gone into such detail about this? For a start, new fields are trodden by pioneers. An HR director I once dealt with likened employing actuaries to addiction: “They are addictive — if you have one, you want more”. If they don’t have one (or worse, have one but don’t know it), then it might well be safe to say that they wouldn’t want more. To drive actuarial careers into new fields, we must encourage vision within our membership and keep them in the fold, not drive them out.

When I set up GAAPS Actuarial, a recruitment company dedicated to actuaries over 20 years ago, there were only a few actuaries as recruiters. At that time, many questioned my departure from the actuarial profession — I persevered and responded that I had not stopped being an actuary, I was merely utilising my skills in a new field. “Every change is chancy” goes the old Yemenite proverb, and chance was what I took in my change of profession. Now more and more actuaries have come forth in the recruitment industry — it has even become an acceptable profession for an actuary.

Challenging as it is for actuarial careers to advance into new areas, we must encourage pioneers by making it both effortless and simple to remain within the folds of the profession. New fields grow out of the work of these pioneers, and much less so from artificial lobbying and seeding by the Profession itself.

We must support our actuarial pioneers and their enterprises and must not forget to also refer to our history when searching out new avenues of endeavour.


Geraldine KayeDr Geraldine Kaye is an actuary who is currently chairman of The GAAPS Group and managing director of GAAPS Actuarial, a recruitment consultancy specialising in the actuarial marketplace