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A New Perception

A New Perception

I have been hearing a great deal about the "actuarial brand," and I'm sure you have, as well.

I find myself asking the following questions: What does the word "brand" mean? What is the impact of a brand? There is a strong association between the word "brand" and the value that it represents. The two are inseparable. You can change the value, modify it or reposition it over time. You can also change the thoughts and implicit qualities associated with it to create a "new and improved'" version, similar to those that we constantly hear about in the marketplace. A brand name has tremendous impact and is associated with a promise. A brand name promises the repeated delivery of quality results, regardless of market conditions.

What is the "actuarial brand?" It is comprised of the images and thoughts that come to mind upon hearing the word "actuary." To me, an actuary represents a rigorously trained professional with a tremendous skill set, great ethics, amazing creativity, intelligence and the ability to provide true thought and business leadership.

There is a certain mystique associated with an actuary's skill set. Somewhere within the career journey of an actuarial professional, amidst taking exams and rotating through various actuarial positions, there develops an exponential leap in thinking, creativity and the ability to solve new and increasingly complex problems. I myself have often been in awe of my actuarial colleagues for the brilliant solutions they have provided in response to very involved problems.

However, there is a gap between actuaries' perception of themselves and the way the actuarial brand is perceived by employers and the marketplace. Since perception for all intensive purposes translates into reality, we must attempt to change that erroneous perception. We need to reposition our professional image and revitalize the actuarial brand.

How will we accomplish this? How can we change employers' perceptions and therefore the impact associated with the actuarial brand? How can I, personally, make an impact toward this end in my everyday work? I have come up with the following five ways in which each of us can help to refashion the actuarial brand in our everyday lives:

  1. Be proactive. Provide true business leadership by looking at the big picture, taking into account the various business issues at hand, and providing sound recommendations. Borrowing from the famous CPTV tag, "If we don't, who will?" We are specialized risk professionals who develop optimal solutions to complex problems using our unique insights, and we need for our strengths and talents to come across.
  2. Be a complete business professional. Provide a business solution, not just a technical one. Go beyond the numbers and use your unique insights to provide real world solutions to complex business problems.
  3. Provide real thought leadership. Be part of the team that sets the strategic direction for the project or for the organization. We would like an actuary to be the first person to be chosen on a strategic business team.
  4. Be an effective communicator. Listen carefully to questions, restate the problem if need be, master the art of delivery and be flexible enough to change your delivery style if the occasion requires you to do so.
  5. Increase your sphere of influence. Remember that each of us represents all of us and that we are all shaping the actuarial brand whether or not we realize it. We need to change the erroneous, widespread perception that actuaries are merely technical experts and not complete business professionals. In every meeting and during every opportunity that you are afforded, widen your sphere of influence and try to leave a lasting, positive impression of the actuarial brand in the minds of everyone you meet.