The Casualty Actuarial Society has an article on their website that says the Chief Actuary is a business leader who can maintain the necessary levels of professionalism and technical expertise while adapting to change. It is the most visible example of professionalism of the actuarial career, and a “hallmark of the profession” according to Richard Fein, Principal. RIF Consulting. Smith Hanley Executive Recruiter, Rory Hauser, says, “Think of the Chief Actuary as the CEO of the individual product or products. They are a business leader in charge of effectively organizing the product and staff to be successful.”
“One of my major responsibilities is to make sure we have the right staff that is technically strong. Being able to take those strong technical skills and use them to solve real business problems is critical,” says Larry Haefner, Chief Actuary, CNA Insurance.
Setting Business Strategy
“In addition to being analytical and developing an actuarial strategy, a Chief Actuary has to be a much broader business leader within the organization,” says Raymond Reimer, Chief Actuary, Middle Market, The Travelers. Through close collaboration with partners in finance, investment and risk functions the Chief Actuary can drive greater insights and help the businesses make better decisions. “We’re seen as bringing an ethical perspective focused on ensuring that the company meets its promises and commitments to our clients,” said Candace Woods, Prudential’s Chief Actuary. Mike LaMonica, Chief Actuary, Allstate says the Chief Actuary plays a unique role between the organization and the actuarial staff, “You’re trying to make sure you can sell the value of your staff to the organization, that you have the skills and abilities to encounter not just the actuarial problems, but the business problems that the organization faces.”
Janet Fagan, former Chief Actuary at Sentry Insurance believe it is acting as an interpreter. “We have to interpret what the business areas are doing and communicate what our staff is doing in terms that other people can understand. The role of chief actuary includes being an interpreter – an important link in the entire management process.” Effective communication is also important in keeping the actuarial staff emotionally engaged in what they are doing and challenged intellectually.
Prudential’s Woods says, “New technologies are allowing us to significantly reduce the time we spend producing results and more time on value-added activities like product R&D and developing insights.” She emphasizes that predictive analytics has helped in better understanding policyholder behavior and how to best manage customer interaction.
CNA’s Haefner says, “Change is so fast. It’s really important to keep up with it from a technical and communications standpoint. Change is mandatory, progress is optional. How we adjust to change is what separates us from others.”
Becoming a Chief Actuary
The good news? There are clear hurdles to achieve to be qualified to be a Chief Actuary. You must have a bachelor’s degree in math, actuarial science, statistics, business or other analytical field. Most chief actuaries start their careers in an entry-level role and work their way up through a variety of supervisory positions. Ability to successfully manage staff through analytical projects is a must. Passing up to 15 certification tests to achieve FSA or FCAS accreditation is critical to being qualified for a Chief Actuary role.
The bad news? It can be a long and arduous process to achieve the Chief Actuary role. Some of it is the steps to achieve fellowship in the actuarial societies as noted above, but the intangibles are harder to quantify. Often Chief Actuaries site a decision to take a lateral move to gain new product or new management experience as being critical for their success. Prudential’s Woods notes that international experience can open you up to approaching and solving business problems in a new way that can lead to better solutions. Certainly leadership skills, both of people and of applications, are a must for anyone seeking the role of Chief Actuary.
Chief Actuaries play a critical role in most organizations. Your decisions and input will be highly valued and highly impactful. You will work with bright, often brilliant, analytical minds doing interesting, important work. You will also be highly rewarded monetarily. Salary.com reports the median Chief Actuarial Officer salary in the United States as $340,980 as of 9/25/20. The range of salaries starts at $285,450 and goes to $405,880 and is dependent on education, certifications, additional skills and number of years spent in the profession.
“As a Senior Recruiter in Actuarial Science it is always my goal to find a way to communicate with the Chief Actuary. They know exactly what they want and what they see happening in the future for their organization. They can explain in detail to me how I can do the best job possible in recruiting for their firm,” says Smith Hanley Associates’ Recruiter, Chris Buckley. Reach out to him at [email protected] if you are interested in talking about this exciting career path.