The Key Factors that Defined My Actuarial Career Choices

Early in my career, people would often ask me how I ended up on my specific career path as an actuary. As a freshman studying Actuarial Science at Ball State University, I took a very active role early on in Gamma Iota Sigma, the International Risk Management Fraternity. I went to every employer campus presentation and signed up for every interview. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t end up with an internship that year; but, I was able to get a feel for what companies had the most interesting internship programs, were in attractive locations, and had the most engaging actuarial staff and recruiters. I based my list of preferred companies on these types of factors because I didn’t yet know what the work would entail.

Fast forward one year and I finally started getting internship offers, several of which were from property and casualty companies. I became especially interested in the property and casualty internships because of the heavy statistical focus and the incredible variety of insurance products. I ultimately went to work for CNA in Chicago in the reserving department. As a freshman, CNA had stood out as my top choice for many reasons, not the least of which were the excellent presenters/actuaries that came to our campus. I was extremely impressed by the people I worked with and for, and I knew at that point that as long as there were additional property and casualty opportunities for me I would love to continue on that path.

I interned the next summer in Towers Watson’s property and casualty practice (San Francisco). One great aspect of the property and casualty work that summer was the variety of customers I was able to serve, including cities, hospitals, corporations big and small, and even a manufacturer of parts used in plastic surgery. At Towers Watson, I was once again amazed at how sharp everyone was. Working with such intelligent and creative people left a lasting impression and was another confirmation that I was on the right path.

As you are considering different companies and career paths, it’s very important (in my opinion) to find the people and a company culture that motivate you to do your best work. The actual details and responsibilities of your job will change over time but the people that you meet and the things that you learn from each other are far more lasting.

Josh Spencer, ACAS, CERA, MAAA is the chief actuary at Brotherhood Mutual in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Career Path Perspectives: The Consulting Actuary

As insurance and regulation needs of companies continue to evolve, the role of a consulting actuary is becoming increasingly important to business.  In addition to corporations, consultants work with insurance companies, government entities, healthcare entities and regulators. Consultants will often work directly with CEOs, CFOs and risk managers, who are concerned with minimizing the risk of their company and doing so at the optimal price.  Some consultants may frequently travel to meet with clients locally, nationally, or even internationally.  Typical assignments involve loss reserving and forecasting of insurance losses, especially those losses which are retained by a company.   Projects may also include allocations to business units, reviewing excess or reinsurance quotes, determining confidence levels, and helping with the formation of a captive.  Consulting actuaries are increasingly being engaged to complete more Enterprise Risk Management, strategic planning and predictive modeling assignments.

The key to a successful consulting career is the ability to manage client expectations and needs at the same time.  Many times a consultant may come to office expecting to work on a particular project that day, but get a call from a client who has an urgent need that must be addressed.  While this can add to the pressure of the job, more often this situation creates a challenge that is met with great enthusiasm by consultants.  Clients may think of the consultant as not only an actuary, but as a true advisor.  Consultants typically have to be able to problem solve quickly and involve creative thinking.  They also spend a lot of their time interacting with other people and are required to have excellent communication skills.  Whether through in-person presentations or conference calls, consultants must be able to share the results of their work, so that the client is able to fully understand and use the results to meet their needs.

The final aspect of being a consultant, which is different than other actuarial roles, is business development.  Consultants have to continue to ensure that their business succeeds, which is achieved by client retention, gaining new clients and increasing revenue.  Consultants keep ahead of the curve of their competitors and should constantly be selling products and services.  Successful annual sales can be a challenge and requires a significant amount of time.  Some consultant may develop a special expertise or new product to attract new clients, while others may focus on research, speaking at industry conferences, or publishing papers. While the idea of sales may be intimidating to some, many consultants view it as an appropriate challenge after finishing actuarial exams and enjoy the thrill of matching their expertise with the needs of a client or potential client.

Richard Frese, FCAS, MAAA, is a consulting actuary at Milliman in Chicago.

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