I recently had the opportunity to speak at the 2021 CAS Spring meeting on the topic of “Business Analytics: What Does It Take for an Actuary to Succeed in Other Insurance Functions?” and thought I’d share some thoughts here as well.
Actuaries are in a unique industry position. There are few other training paths that give you such a diverse view of an insurance company. Most people focus on actuarial concepts but coming out of the exam process, actuaries have a strong foundation in other areas such as underwriting, legal, claims, finance and risk. To the advantage of the actuary, all areas of insurance companies are moving towards data-driven decision making – so your big picture view of an insurance company and your strong technical skills make you an asset in any insurance function.
An unconventional path
My first position in an insurance company was not the traditional actuarial co-op. I began my career in the insurance industry as a commercial lines underwriter before moving into the actuarial field. I then spent six years in various actuarial roles including pricing for specialty personal insurance, non-traditional risks and large accounts pricing. I’ve moved out of the traditional actuarial function and am now the business manager to our chief distribution officer at Aviva Canada. In this role, I support our broker distribution, partnerships, marketing & communications teams.
When I was in a pricing role, I always thought the goal was to have the most complex pricing models and then write the most affordable business and deter or write the worst risks at a proper premium. Since moving to my distribution role, it’s opened my eyes to so many different business problems and the need for more than just sophisticated pricing.
Two key areas that my current team focuses on are:
- Distribution Efficiency – commissions, expenses etc. Often you can compare your company profitability to another and loss ratios are very similar, but the difference is that one company is more efficient which makes them more profitable.
- Top Line Growth – which distribution channel is growing? Which brokers are growing? Who isn’t? Why? How can we help drive more growth?
With your actuarial skills, do you think you can help solve these problems? I hope you agree the answer is yes!
Look beyond traditional
My advice for actuaries looking to succeed outside the traditional function:
- Push yourself to speak up more. Actuarial leaders know how to get the best out of you. It may not be the same experience with leaders in different areas of the business. So take advantage and speak up.
- Have an opinion. So often I’ve worked with young actuaries who can perform incredible analysis but will stop short of providing an opinion and often defer to their manager or a senior actuary. As you move up the corporate ladder, you’re going to have to get more comfortable with providing your input with less and less data to work with.
If you are still toying with the idea of moving outside of a traditional actuarial role, it never hurts to widen your circle. Get to know the people in different areas of your company. Sit with an underwriter while they process a policy, shadow a claims adjuster while they work to help a customer during a stressful time of their life or connect with a member of your broker distribution team to find out what brokers or customers are saying. It will give you a whole new perspective on where the data you work with comes from.
There’s so much we can learn from one another. Getting a mentor in a non-actuarial part of the business is another good way. They can help offer alternative viewpoints, advocate for you and help you grow your career. And if I can be of any help to anyone reading this, actuary or not, feel free to connect and drop me a line anytime!
I’ve really enjoyed working in a non-traditional role the last 5 years as a data engineer at a specialty lines insurer. I spend my days collaborating, designing and executing on innovation projects, usually in automation and analytics. I love programming, and the transition went very smoothly.