My Key Learnings as a Business Owner to Impart to Actuaries of the Future

How did being an actuary help me with starting my own company? 

I founded my own actuarial consulting company, Actuarial Factor LLC, in 2014 and we are now going for our 10th year anniversary.  The discipline, the focus, and the determination required during the actuarial exam process were keys in tackling each aspect of my business as a problem that needs a solution.  Since actuaries are problem solvers that made my life a little easier.  At the beginning, there were two main challenging aspects of my business, how to get new clients, and how not to run out of money.  

Building my client base required me to talk to strangers, something I was intimidated to do. I solved that by joining Toastmasters International, and within three years earned a Distinguished Toastmaster Award (DTM). This program and experience gave me the practice to feel more comfortable when talking to prospective clients and helped tremendously in building my business.  

To tackle the second part, ensuring my business would succeed financially, I read books on starting a new business and attended a few classes that SCORE provided. One of the books was “Birthing the Elephant: The Woman’s Go-For-It! Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business” by Karin Abarbanel.  It mentioned that it took two years to launch a business.  I am good with finance, learned as an actuary, so I set a strict budget for my business and my home for the first three years. I told myself over and over, I only have two options: I am going to succeed, or I am going to succeed, there is no plan B.  

Starting my own company from scratch was the hardest thing that I had ever done in my life, besides passing the actuarial exams and raising my son.  I could not have achieved it without the skills developed as an actuary.  Thank you, CAS and those who volunteer their time. 

As I think back on my career, and what I have learned along the way, I have 5 suggestions to impart to actuaries of the future:  

  1. I invite actuaries to think like a business owner.  Actuaries, you are experts in your field and have very good knowledge of organizations as a whole.  Business owners are looking for ways to grow, such as new distribution channels, enhanced insurance programs, new ways of doing things, etc. as well as reducing expenses.  During my first week of starting to work as an actuary, one business leader stopped by my desk and asked what I thought about a certain business deal.  I thought about it, and shared my thoughts.  It was interesting from then on, he always stopped by my desk to ask what I thought about different business challenges. We had mutual respect, admiration, and trust. The management of your organization wants to hear from you.  Actuaries can anticipate risks and manage those risks in your organizations. Actuaries can think strategically, incorporate technology to increase efficiency, and lead your organization.  Actuaries do not only look in the rearview mirror.  On the contrary, actuaries anticipate and prepare for the future.  I want to see more actuaries become CEOs of your organizations.   
  2. I invite actuaries to continue working harder than others.  The standards for the quality of the work of actuaries are very high and actuaries continue raising the bar.  A friend told me that there were others who were smarter than him; however, he worked harder (i.e., longer hours, including weekends) than anyone else and thus, he was more successful.  I disagreed with my friend as I believe that he is very smart, and I agreed with my friend that working harder than others helps becoming more successful.  My father worked long hours in agriculture, which is very hard work to be in the sun all day. I got his work ethic and fortunately for me, I have better working conditions.  There are actuaries who are smarter than I, and I want to see you accomplish even more. 
  3. I invite actuaries to continue learning.  The world is constantly changing and I believe that the only way to keep up is by continuing to be a student and learning.  I thought that after passing all the actuarial exams, I would be done studying.  On the contrary, it was just the beginning.  There is so much to learn and so little time.  Organizations are globally connected and learning a new language is important to communicate effectively. Organizations such as Apple release a new version of iPhone every couple of years with a new enhancement and a lot of people buy it because they expect something better.  Actuaries need to continue learning and applying it to your work to continue being relevant.   
  4. I invite actuaries to help someone by volunteering, mentoring, teaching, or assisting in any way you can. You received a lot of support from your family, friends, teachers, and strangers.  You did not get to where you are today alone.  Please consider donating 1 hour of your time, which may not be much to you, but you never know when you could be talking to the next actuary of the future.  I had an actuary donate 1 hour of his time 30 years ago and he answered all my questions.  I may not have chosen to be an actuary if he had not given me 1 hour of his time.  I challenge you to help 1 person and if we all do that, then we will have 10,000 new actuaries sooner than you expect it. 
  5. Finally, I invite actuaries to be genuine by being yourself.  You are experts in your field, you are smart and very valuable in your organizations.  There is no time to be wasted.  I am very proud of what you have achieved so far and what I expect you to continue achieving.  You are the actuaries of the future, and the future is yours.  

I invite you to continue learning and achieving.  Believe in yourself and tackle one problem at a time. 

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About Esperanza (“Espy”) Borja Mead

Espy is Actuarial Factor’s Principal and Founder and has over 25 years of actuarial experience. She is a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society, a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries, and a Distinguished Toastmaster.  She has extensive experience in property and casualty, personal and business, accident and health, and life in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean.   Just prior to founding Actuarial Factor located in Miami, Florida, Espy worked as Vice President, Chief Actuary of Latin America in Chubb. Her actuarial work includes pricing, reserving, feasibility studies, peer reviews, expert testimony, and mergers & acquisitions.

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