Another strong article by Annmarie Geddes Baribeau which fits well with Protagion’s enthusiasm for active career management. Focused on consulting, particularly actuarial consulting, and the skills needed, it originally appeared in Spring 2018. It formed part of a supplement to the Contingencies magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries, called Actuarial Job Seeker.
We particularly appreciate the style of personal stories and views Annmarie uses, and the insights of those who’ve experienced consulting underlie its authenticity. While this post concentrates on her discussions with consulting actuaries, readers may recall we previously shared our takeaways from 8 wider-fields General Insurance actuaries who spoke with Annmarie about their experiences.
Consulting is a topic we at Protagion have written about before, although those articles have been broader than one profession. They include:
[The] skills and even personality traits required for success [as a consultant] often do not come easily for those attracted to quantitative work. Actuaries who want to become part of the consulting world need to know themselves – and the expectations of the firms they join. Fortunately, there are a variety of consulting roles available and infinite opportunities to improve the skills necessary for climbing the consulting career ladder.”
For her article, Annmarie spoke with a range of actuaries:
Is consulting for you?
The article begins by introducing several of the contributors, and explains that some actuaries commence their careers as consultants, while others start off working for insurance companies and later consider consulting mid-career or closer to retirement. It also describes that consulting work as an actuary can range from reserving and audit support to pricing and predictive modelling. Annmarie advises: “Before entering the world of consulting, actuaries should first evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, desires, and aspirations, because these ultimately guide career decisions.” At Protagion, we wholeheartedly agree – we refer to this as “Know Yourself”.
Advantages and drawbacks of consulting
Building on the experiences of the consulting actuaries interviewed, the article sets out both the allure of consulting as well as potential drawbacks. Advantages include the variety of work professionals can be involved in, and the income potential. With this upside, however, comes the following requirements and risks:
The risk is illustrated with the following example: “There have been situations whereby consultants with twenty-plus years of experience lost their jobs because they did not bring in $2 million-plus of business a year… The ability to meet these lofty goals depends on many factors – for example, cultivating business relationships – but due to mergers and acquisitions, clients can evaporate overnight for reasons beyond the consultant’s control.”
Skills and Attributes
The need for flexibility and adaptability as a consultant comes through strongly in the article, and is referenced in a number of comments, including:
Business Development imperative
As mentioned above, the importance of generating fee income is emphasised in Routes to the Top – Consulting, a previous Protagion post. Unsurprisingly it is adroitly acknowledged by Annmarie and the actuaries she interviewed too: “The further you go up the ladder, the more sales becomes part of your job”.
This requires you to develop ongoing client relationships. But many actuaries are not stellar salespeople by nature or desire, especially where they choose to focus on technical excellence and depth. The article argues that “actuaries can overcome their reticence by understanding what sales means on a practical level - [it] is about managing expectations and building relationships”. It goes on to explain that business development involves “establishing credibility by helping the client define the business problem, often through expertly crafted and challenging questions, and ultimately conveying a proposed solution and how it will benefit the client”.
Another experienced contributor draws parallels with sales skills actuaries in insurance companies are already using, arguing that “selling is not as difficult as it might seem”. He explains: “Presenting reserving results that impact bonuses is a tough sell to CEOs, and persuading others of your actuarial work product’s validity is also a form of sales.” Other helpful advice he gives to actuaries looking to tame their inner detail-oriented introvert is:
The full article can be found at:
Annmarie has been covering insurance and actuarial topics for more than 25 years. Her blog can be found at www.insurancecommunicators.com.