How My Interest in Guiding Actuarial Students Led to a New Career Path

By Ken Fikes
Posted on

In 2006, I partook in the creation of an online company, The Infinite Actuary, to provide online actuarial exam prep seminars.  Responding to the idea that came from my business partner, James Washer, FSA, a small group of actuaries with teaching experience collaborated to form The Infinite Actuary.  However, my story starts long before this.

My junior year of college, Jobs Rated Almanac named Actuary the number one job in America.  Great salary, normal work hours, and math – I was sold!  My first job was with a large insurer.  The work really interested me, but my favorite part was the opportunity to advance quickly – all I had to do was pass a few exams.  I love the ability to control my own destiny.  I am very competitive, and in a large company there was definitely pressure to pass exams.  This competition propelled me to finish the exams quickly.  After achieving my FCAS, I decided to become a consulting actuary.  The work was new and challenging, but only a year removed from the exam process, I missed it.  I fortunately came across an opportunity to teach a live exam prep seminar for the Casualty Actuaries of the Mid-Atlantic Region, a regional affiliate of the CAS.  I discovered my passion for teaching and soon started instructing seminars with other regional affiliates.

As I continued to teach seminars, I started a new job with a small insurer.  The work differed from that of either a large insurer or a consulting firm.  I became more of a decision maker for the company as a whole instead of just one line of business or project.  Six years after teaching my first seminar, I was given the opportunity to teach full-time with The Infinite Actuary.  I do love teaching, but I didn’t realize the work involved with running your own company.  Fortunately, the skills developed at both large and small insurers, as well as my experience as a consulting actuary, helped me develop and manage the business.

At first, I was teaching all, or part of, three exam seminars.  This included developing written content, recording online videos, and teaching live seminars.  On top of this, we were continuing to build and improve our website, hire and manage instructors, deal with the many financial tasks, and most importantly, market our product.  As our business grew, customer service became more time consuming.  Adding support staff became critical if we wanted to be successful.

Today, we have a full staff to help the business run smoothly.  I currently manage the financial and marketing areas of the company, as well as the casualty seminars.  In a typical week, I have several staff meetings, work on advertising to companies and universities, discuss strategies for business development, complete various tasks related to financials, add new educational content, and review new or updated exam prep material.  My background as an actuary prepared me for the challenge of becoming a successful small business owner.

Ken Fikes, FCAS, is the executive director at The Infinite Actuary.

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