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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Successful actuaries get ‘touchy feely’

Actuaries have to get into the “touchy feely stuff” in order to get the people skills needed to match their mathematical and analytical knowhow, according to Adrian Jones, an actuary with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

When student members of the Actuarial Profession are studying to qualify as actuaries, alongside rigorous examinations in technical and mathematical subjects, they also study core communication skills, enabling them to communicate often highly complex materials to clients and colleagues.

Yet Jones, speaking at the Actuarial Profession’s recent Pensions conference in Southport, argues that successful actuaries have a better understanding of the human mind and of human behaviour and psychology.

He said: “Actuaries love getting to grips with complex models with multiple variables and uncertain outcomes. But, nothing is more complicated than the human mind. The study of human behaviour is full of models and theories that attempt to explain how we work, learn and live and it’s time for actuaries to get familiar with them.

“No matter how comprehensive or rigorous our models are, our ability to communicate them successfully is paramount. From Myers-Briggs to Honey and Mumford, there are a variety of models and theories about how we can understand how people work, learn and adapt.

“Human behaviour is complex, of course, and cannot simply be explained by a model alone. But, neither can a financial market. Understanding human behaviour is not something we should leave to the psychologists, the complexity and analysis involved is right up our street, and understanding it can help us bring value to the people we serve.”