Let's Talk ERM...

Let's Talk ERM...
by Jacque Kirkwood

Dave Ingram is happy to be part of this evolving field.

Dave Ingram, FSA, MAAA, is a guru in the area of risk management, though because of his humble nature, he wouldn't readily admit to it. But get him talking and one can immediately tell it's a subject that's near and dear to his heart. Currently the director of enterprise risk management in the Insurance Ratings Group at Standard and Poor's, Ingram leads S&P's new initiative to enhance its analytical ratings framework as it relates to risk management.

What motivated you to pursue risk management?
I was attracted to the risk management topic in the late 1990s when I left a corporate position and entered a consulting practice. I had experience with risk management going back to 1980 and saw it as an area where I might be able to make a significant contribution.

Tell us a little bit about your time as a consulting actuary.
I was a consultant for Milliman for seven years. During the first half of that period, I worked on demutualizations. I personally worked on nine of them I think, which puts me up there with the most number of demutualizations anybody's ever worked on to date. The atmosphere in the consulting realm provided a lot of things that I really liked, in particular variety and exposure to many different people and many different problems. Those two components were the biggest draws for me.

What contributed to your decision to become an actuary?
Well, I traced it back to two experiences. One was in high school. I took a math test that was sponsored by the Actuaries Club of Philadelphia, which was the first time I ever heard of the profession. I was a strong math student, so I identified with that and it stuck with me. I didn't win the prize, but it left a positive impression on me.

When I came out of college it was during the 1973-74 recession; there were virtually no jobs to be had. It was really hilarious seeing these long–haired, hippie students that I was going to college with all getting haircuts and buying suits for big job interviews. But insurers were relatively recession proof, and at that time actuarial talent was scarce. Those willing and able to take the exams could get hired to be an actuarial trainee–I was hooked.

Has the profession changed much since you first came aboard?
The evolution of technology has changed the way we do business by leaps and bounds. Twenty–five years ago, I seem to remember that the work I did that was risk management related was done on the back of an envelope. Nowadays we have very disciplined, complex models for doing that. Where would we be without computers?

I did get my feet wet technology wise while attending Lehigh University. I was a journalism minor and had an internship at a local daily newspaper called the EASTON Express. They had just computerized, so I was using state–of–the–art technology to do my internship work on a computer system for a newspaper. I became a better writer because of that experience.

Of your many career accomplishments, what do you consider the most satisfying?
That's a tough question, because accomplishments at all levels are gratifying. Sometimes having a busy day filled with a lot of hard work and having fun while doing it is just as satisfying as landing a big client. Work in itself is gratifying to me. Doing something I love to do is a bonus. It doesn't have to be big to make you happy . sometimes the little accomplishments are the ones that stick with you the longest and make the lasting impressions.

The work I'm doing at Standard and Poor's involves helping them set up processes and standards for judging risk management in the insurance industry. It's great fun and I'm happy to be involved in such an important endeavor.

Are you proud of your profession?
I'm very proud of the quality of the profession, but at times I've really felt challenged over my career–especially when it comes to the inaccurate stereotyping of actuaries. We're so much more than number crunchers and human calculators. I do see things changing for the better as we break into nontraditional fields. People are seeing us with fresh eyes and that's a big leap forward.

Do you feel your background as an actuary has positively impacted your career?
Absolutely. The analytical thought process that actuaries are taught is absolutely fundamental to my thinking process.

What excites or intrigues you most about the business world?
What intrigues me the most about risk management is that it's still such a developing area–that while insurance companies have been offering risk management services to businesses and individuals for hundreds of years, the processes for insurers to manage their own risk is far from fully developed at this point. It's an area where I can take what I've learned from my entire career and pile it back in and work it through into this ... work it into this risk management area and come up with new ideas and processes. While I may not uncover startling insights, they may prove to be useful additions to existing practices.

What excites me about business in general is that we have a great system in the United States. If you start a business and run it competently, providing a product that people want and need, you can make a reasonable go at having a successful business out of that. It's a simple concept, but there's a great sense of satisfaction in that simplicity.

Describe a great day on the job.
A great day on the job is when I'm able to participate in solving a difficult problem and able to communicate that solution to other people who can use it.

How do you personally measure success?
As long as I'm learning and making a positive impact on my profession, I feel successful. I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do both during my career.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in business?
Two in particular stand out in my mind–always have confidence in the conclusions you reach and believe in your work. Simply said, don't second–guess yourself.

How have you shared your actuarial and business expertise with other parts of the world?
As a consultant, I gave seminars on risk management twice in London and three times in Seoul. In 2004, I was a speaker for the Joint SOA/ FIA Asia seminar on risk management. With that seminar, we made our presentations in Kuala Lampur, Tai Pei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo. In addition, I authored an article about that seminar that was published in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. When I joined Standard and Poor's, I spent four weeks in London, Paris, Zurich and Munich training S&P analysts, joining in discussions with insurance company management regarding risk management and speaking at a conference.

Any particular hobbies you'd like to share?
I have seven kids. The oldest is 36. The youngest is 15–the only one left at home. Just in the last year we've taken up kayaking together on the Long Island Sound. Over the years, my hobbies have been my children.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with aspiring actuaries?
I would impress upon them to think of their actuarial education as an education in broad problem solving through complex modeling rather than a bunch of separate specific techniques. If they do that, they'll find that their actuarial education can be adapted throughout their lives to all different things, as I have in mine. I've managed to stay into some fairly cutting–edge fields with risk management.

What mark or legacy would you like to leave on the world?
I hope that if the actuarial profession obtains its goals of becoming a major force in the area of risk management that my name gets mentioned in at least one place in the history of risk management.

How the Risk Management Section Got its Start...

Prior to his current position, Ingram was a consulting actuary at Milliman Global's New York office. He consulted on risk management, risk analysis, mergers and acquisitions, demutualizations, market conduct lawsuit settlements and annuity product development.

Dave Ingram can be reached at david_ingram@standardandpoors.com.

Jacque Kirkwood is senior communications associate for the Society of Actuaries. She can be reached at jkirkwood@soa.org.