So I’ve been working as an actuary for 21 years.
My main focus is the Hong Kong market, including domestic companies and foreign companies that are registered and operating in and out of Hong Kong. I also have a broader team that works in the greater Chinese markets.
I would like to know everything, including the future.
People who are curious, open minded, and not afraid to break things. Actuaries come from a very educational background, and they progress through all these exams and systems that don’t encourage learning by trial and error. It makes them nervous to experience what they perceive as ‘failing.’ Breaking something doesn’t mean failing, but some people will see it this way.
I think executive messaging is the most important attribute an actuary can have in order to be more influential. It’s also a skill I think many actuaries lack. I’ve been in this field for a long time, and in my experience actuaries struggle to communicate a business message to a group of executives in a way that gets to the ‘so what’ of what they’ve done. Being able to connect the strong analytical skills and results with business decisions would make actuaries more influential.
I think there are three things.
On the softer side, creating a community where both exist. In my team, I have data scientists and actuaries working together on projects we’ve deliberately set up to promote collaboration and innovation. I also believe a foundational introduction to what the other does is important. I hold introductory sessions where data scientists explain data science, what they do, how they train, how they promote continuous learning, all that - and then actuaries do the same. I think at the end of the day it comes down to leadership. If you want people to work together then you forge creative environments where they can do that.
There’s a gentleman I worked with quite often in my younger days named Dennis Stanley. He had the vision of creating an actuarial calculation engine at the time when no one did, and I think he started with the idea of doing it as an ALM engine instead of a liability only engine, and that was really advanced thinking back then. His passion for creating something to push the profession forward has inspired me throughout my career.
Another person who inspired me early on is a gentleman called David Wilkie. People know him because there was an ESG model, Wilkie’s model, named after him. He was a British professor, highly innovative, and was the first person to apply these economic scenario generator techniques to an insurance problem.
I think the most impactful innovations are the ones that create business value, whether that be creating value for shareholders or for customers. I think the customer part is the most important part, because that’s why the insurance industry exists in the first place: serving the needs of the general public. Innovation needs to be thought about in such a way; not only technology, but also how it impacts real customers.
My advice would be, don’t look at the world retrospectively, don’t think about what happened in the last ten years, think about what will happen in the next ten. Be courageous about embracing the views that you’ve got. Some actuaries might be skeptical about that advice, but I think you need to be courageous to become an actuary in the first place.