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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Q&A: Justin Brenden

Justin Brenden is chief reserving actuary at Third Point Reinsurance Company, Bermuda and is originally from the US

07 JULY 2016 | BY JUSTIN BRENDEN  


Justin-Bredan

After starting my career in New York with Ernst & Young, I moved to Bermuda in 2012 to join Third Point Re, a startup reinsurance company. While I thoroughly enjoyed everything had to offer when I was in my 20s, Bermuda now offers the ideal lifestyle that balances work and 

personal fulfilment.

My wife is also an actuary and we are currently expecting our first child. Outside of work and family my main hobby is distance running and I am training for my tenth marathon. We also enjoy international travel and some of our favourite past destinations are Taiwan, Croatia, and Hawaii. 

I have spent my whole career in non-life or P&C, as we Americans call it. I had the benefit of going to the University of Wisconsin, which had a large actuarial programme and allowed me to learn a lot about the different fields. Based on that, I determined that non-life practice was more diverse and less prescribed, which attracted me.


Which actuarial society are you a member of?

I am a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) in the US. I am also an affiliate member of the IFoA and I am currently in the process of completing my requirements for mutual recognition as an FIA.


Which actuarial fields are most dominant in your country and why? 

Historically, Bermuda has been heavily weighted towards non-life reinsurance, so most of the actuaries in Bermuda work in the non-life space. That being said, there has been a recent influx of life reinsurers moving to the island.


Tell us a bit about the industry or market that you work in?

The Bermuda reinsurance industry is incredibly dynamic. Given that this is a tiny country (50 square kilometres and 65,000 people) with a high concentration of reinsurance companies and professionals, you literally can’t walk down the street without meeting someone who works in the industry. This makes for great professional networking and social opportunities. In addition, Bermuda has grown by responding to the changing needs of the market, so it’s generally on the forefront of new reinsurance market trends.

Are you involved in any actuarial activities outside of your day job? 

I am the chairman of the CAS Casualty Loss Reserve Seminar Planning Committee, which is an annual conference focused on reserving that attracts 700+ attendees from around the world. This volunteer work has provided excellent opportunities to give back to the CAS membership, to stay current on what’s going on in the industry, and make strong connections with other volunteers on the committee. However, it does present challenges. I had no idea of the amount of work that goes into these conferences before being involved with this committee!


Could you tell us about a challenging project you have worked on? 

For the last four years I have worked at Third Point Re, which started operations in 2012 and is one of the recent class of hedge fund sponsored reinsurance companies. It has been fascinating working here for two main reasons. First, being in involved in a startup has allowed me to learn an incredible amount about how a reinsurance company operates, including the actuarial aspects. Second, working for a hedge fund sponsored reinsurer has given me an insider’s understanding of one of the major trends in the reinsurance market right now, which is towards taking more risk on the asset side of the balance sheet.

What do you believe are the social and economic drivers for actuarial work in your region?

Bermuda is very reinsurance-centric, so the main driver of the market here is the global supply and demand of reinsurance. Bermuda provides a very strong yet practical infrastructure to start and grow companies quickly in response to market needs. 

Given that change is always occurring – whether it is due to major loss events, the financial markets, regulation, or emerging risks – the opportunities for companies and for actuaries in Bermuda will always be linked to the latest needs of the market.


What is the reputation of actuaries and the professional body in Bermuda? 

Because it is a very small country with a very high concentration of actuaries, there is a strong level of recognition of the actuarial profession here. Everyone here knows what actuaries are, and that it is a challenging and rewarding profession. You even hear children and teenagers say that they want to be actuaries when they grow up.


How do you see the role of an actuary evolving in the future – can you see actuaries working outside their traditional sectors?

I think that it will become more common for actuaries to branch off from the traditional sectors. However, the extent to which this happens will be dependent upon the adaptation of the actuarial societies as well as the candidates themselves. Actuarial education is so specific and slow-moving that this is one of the primary challenges we as a profession face.


In the UK the skill set of an actuary is being recognised across many non-traditional disciplines, is this true of the market you work in? 

Bermuda’s economy is so heavily weighted towards reinsurance that the need for actuaries in other sectors is limited. 

However, I do see more and more examples of actuaries working in other areas in the US. Specifically, I am seeing more actuaries working for large non-insurance corporations that have lots of self-insured liability.

How often and in what way do you use social media? How does it help your professional work as an actuary?

As a member of the ‘Facebook generation’ I am a frequent user of social media. However, I haven’t used it much in my professional work as an actuary. I do find it to be helpful when recruiting candidates and keeping the pulse of the job market.


What were the influences that shaped your career decisions to date?

My initial choice to be an actuary was a combination of playing to my strengths – good analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate – and identifying a career path with strong prospects (the demand for actuaries clearly exceeded the supply when I made the choice). Once I chose the career, my objective was to learn as much as possible while being opportunistic in choosing my roles. That approach led me to take my first consulting job in New York and to eventually move to Bermuda.


Could you tell us about your immediate and longer term goals?

I don’t believe in setting career goals that are too specific, since it is impossible to predict what opportunities will present themselves or where my future interests will lie. That being said, in my current role I am looking to make an increasing contribution to the underwriting and management decisions that are made by the company, with a medium-to-longer term goal of moving towards an executive-level position.


As an actuary have you experienced any challenges, new opportunities and benefits of being qualified?

The primary challenge of being qualified was making it through the exam process. Even considering the investment in time and energy that the exams required, the benefits have significantly outweighed the costs. The benefits for me have primarily come in the form of outstanding professional opportunities as well as the satisfaction of doing good work in an area that I am well suited to.


What do you say when asked, “What is an actuary”?

I generally keep it simple and say that actuaries do the math behind insurance. 

While that isn’t an ideal answer since actuaries work in more than just insurance (and do more than just math!) I find that this response is the easiest for the average person to understand and doesn’t intimidate them (or scare them off). Depending on who is asking, I might go a step further and say that actuaries analyse risk in all sorts of situations and give a few examples.


What was the motivation behind the decision to move abroad?

My move to Bermuda was primarily motivated by a great career opportunity, but it has also allowed for an interesting adventure and a nice contrast to New York.


What are the main professional differences between the US and Bermuda?

Actuaries enjoy a much higher level of recognition and prestige in Bermuda, given that there are so many reinsurance companies here.


How did you find this opportunity? 

I was directly contacted by a former client.


What kind of support did you get in moving abroad from your potential employer?

My employer was very helpful in making it a smooth transition. They flew me down for a visit beforehand and gave me all kinds of advice about making the move.