Actuarial Pioneers: What Have We Learned?


Actuarial Pioneers: What Have We Learned?

By Glenda Maki

OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS profiles of actuarial Pioneers have been regular features in The Actuary. We began doing these profiles to help actuaries learn from peers who have created new applications for actuarial science and those who have applied their actuarial skills in nontraditional settings.

Through these articles we've covered actuaries who have brought their skills to the worlds of enterprise risk management, government, academia and many other areas. Their fields range from pet insurance to baseball statistics to actuarial forensics, and include entrepreneurs, risk managers and CEOs.

Common themes throughout the interviews are big-picture thinking, the importance of good communication skills, learning–both in and outside of the profession, integrity and credibility.

Although we will no longer be profiling Pioneers on a regular basis, we thought this was a good time to go back to those we have interviewed to ask them about what is next for the profession. We also gathered memorable quotes from past interviews on success, advice for peers and on the profession itself.


"My hope is that actuaries get much more involved in the broader issues facing society, e.g., protecting the economy, homeland security, retirement security for individuals/families, government budgeting and forecasting, etc. We have a unique combination of financial acumen and integrity that society needs now more than ever. If we think big, we can capitalize on these opportunities, and more importantly, serve the public in increasingly important ways."–Sim Segal, FSA, CERA, MAAA, US leader of ERM services at Watson Wyatt.

"I see actuaries as pioneers in a broader range of industries than in the past. We can certainly invade the banking and investment space but also areas of education and research dominated in the past by financial mathematicians and statisticians. I would like to see us pioneering the profession in geographic areas that have been relatively neglected to date, such as Africa and the former Soviet bloc."–Phil Gold, FSA, FIA, MAAA, GGY AXIS.

"Be willing to try new and nontraditional jobs. We shouldn't change jobs just for the sake of change, but if it makes you feel more alive and gives you a chance to do something for others, try it. Actuaries need to get beyond just working at the traditional jobs (which are decreasing) and realize that we can learn and do new things."–Ron Gebhardtsbauer, FSA, MAAA, faculty-in-charge, actuarial science at Pennsylvania State University.

"The financial crisis has made the world understand how important risk management is. It has emphasized risk and at the same time created opportunity. As health risk is shared in new ways, there should be different opportunities for actuaries. In addition, we need to think about how to adapt to more personal responsibility for retirement or find new risk-sharing models."–Anna Rappaport, FSA, MAAA, Anna Rappaport Consulting.

"I believe that the actuarial expertise in identifying and evaluating risks should lead the profession to be more involved in the monitoring and rating of financial instruments as well as in the creation of viable investment structures whose ultimate risk/return profiles are realized. Given the economic experiences of the last two years, actuaries have the opportunity to apply creative, analytical thought to the major challenges facing the world."–Carol Proffer, FSA, MAAA, partner, Capstone Partners.

"Broaden your contacts beyond other actuaries; seek out people who are different from you. Try to see all sides of an issue. Look for financial as well as nonfinancial solutions. Be prepared to adjust to change. Rather than being fearful of losing your job or reduced income from changes in your world, look for opportunities that will arise from these changes. The days of lifetime employment in one career track at one company are over."–Steve Vernon, FSA, MAAA, president, Rest-of-Life Communications.


"... business theory can only get you so far. Business success is all about people. So it's important to pick your work associates, and your company, wisely."–Kim Johnson, FSA, senior vice president of investor relations, Hartford Financial Services Group.

"I make a practice of hiring a number of younger people who can learn from being in my companies ... it's very satisfying to me when some of my former employees become presidents and CEOs of other companies."–Shane Chalke, FSA.

"It's such a clich� to say it, but making a difference in other people's lives is how I measure success. Having someone notice something I did or I helped create is pretty satisfying. Being an actuary allows me to do something totally unique that directly affects pet parents and their pets, our investors, our staff and northeast Ohio."–Laura Bennett, FSA, CEO, Embrace Pet Insurance.

"I'm more into satisfaction than success. And if I were into success I would question whether I would be the proper person to judge my own."–Charles McClenahan, FCAS, ASA, MAAA, managing director, Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting.


"Actuaries have always been involved in risk management, but more specifically oriented towards insurance companies and pension funds. We approach risk with more of a solvency concern. It is very easy to transport those thoughts to a broader view of risk management encompassing solvency, operational and other aspects of risk."–Francois Bourdon, FCIA, Fiera Capital.

"My actuarial skills have aided me throughout my career. While working in the insurance field, I had the great luxury of having some tremendous mentors who taught me a great deal."–John Dewan, FSA, ACTA Publications.

"I believe the actuarial profession is not only a very honorable one, but one that is essential in today's society. We help people identify and manage many of the risks of everyday life. If the profession is deficient, it is because we are not more vocal in calling these risks to the attention of those concerned."–Haeworth Robertson, FSA, MAAA, president, The Retirement Policy Institute.

"One of the hallmarks of the profession is work product credibility. Since leaders in any organization, including government, are only as effective as the data underlying their decisions, this attribute is increasingly desirable."–Linda Springer, FSA, MAAA, Office of Management & Budget.


"To me, the lessons of advancing in one's career boil down to three simple rules that you could carry in your wallet:

  1. Identify who in the organization has the power (and budget) and figure out how to work for that individual or organization.
  2. Define your own value proposition carefully so that you can convince those in the organization with the power to use you; and
  3. Get profit and loss management experience as early as you can."–Ian Duncan, FSA, FCIA, FIA, MAAA, consultant, Solucia Consulting.

"Innovate, especially when someone tells you that you can't or shouldn't."–Jim Tilley, FSA.

"Get the skills first. Don't be limited by what you're learning–use that to go beyond. My dad used to say, 'Your mind is like a flashlight. It doesn't matter which dark room you go into, you should always be able to shine.'"–Prakash Shimpi, FSA, CERA, MAAA, global practice leader, ERM, Towers Perrin.

"First, listen to others very carefully. You never know when you are going to hear the next great idea. Second, be humble. No one knows everything. And it is remarkable how readily people will come to help if asked. Third, remember that communication is essential. We are all 'selling' our ideas, and if you cannot convince others of the relevance and logic of your propositions, you will not be able to influence outcomes. And finally, always maintain your integrity. Your credibility and objectivity are essential."–Stephen Goss, ASA, chief actuary, Social Security Administration.

"There was a point in my career when management stopped saying 'you're really smart' and started saying 'you really have a lot of energy.' Once that happened, whole new opportunities opened up."–Todd Bault, FCAS, MAAA, senior research analyst, Sanford C Bernstein & Co Inc.

"Well, how can you answer that in any other way than the saying: 'The best reward for good work is more work.'?"–Tom Terry, FSA, MAAA, JPMorgan Compensation and Benefit Strategies.

"When I became a fellow, the president of the SOA was Ed Lew. He gave the commencement speech to new fellows. He said something that I have repeated in front of many audiences.: 'When you have to make a decision, always make the one that will let you sleep better, not the one that will let you eat better.'"–Claude Lamoureux, FSA, FCIA, president and CEO, Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan.

"Whether you are selling software to an insurance company CEO or presenting a financial report to your boss, you need to know your customer. Put yourself in his or her shoes and try to understand what they are after."–Mark Franzen, FSA, MAAA, managing director, IntelliScript.

"Any employee is welcome to come and vent to me, but not without offering suggestions regarding how to turn things around, or without ways to achieve a positive outcome."–Rudy Karsan, CEO, Kenexa Corp.

"Look for opportunities to incorporate viewpoints from outside the profession in your actuarial education. ... there is no substitute for practical experience in other areas. Working at Salomon Brothers and breathing the air on Wall Street gave me insights into the capital markets that I could not have gotten from books."–Larry Bader, FSA.

"In a nutshell, my advice is to work hard, demonstrate a commitment to your company, understand the organization's strategies as well as its operations and extend your network beyond your immediate work assignment."–Fred Sievert, FSA, MAAA.

"I learned early in my career that communication and interpersonal skills were essential to success and that I had to learn and work at them. ... I have accepted that no one can be good at everything, and have surrounded myself with great people who have strengths that complement mine."–Craig Raymond, FSA, CERA, MAAA, senior VP, corporate development, Hartford Financial Services Group.

"Always have confidence in the conclusions you reach and believe in your work. Simply said, don't second-guess yourself."–Dave Ingram, FSA, CERA, MAAA, senior vice president, Willis Re.

"Speak up and speak out. Do not be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, particularly if it comes from on high. I have certainly never regretted speaking out, but I sometimes look back and regret occasions when I didn't speak out."–Phelim Boyle, FCIA, Ph.D., director, Centre for Advanced Studies in Finance, University of Waterloo.

Complete interviews with each Pioneer are available at

Glenda Maki is a senior communications associate at the Society of Actuaries. She can be contacted at