David Alexander has had a varied 35 year international career so far. During that time he has managed Life, Pensions, Health and General Insurance, and Reinsurance portfolios, underpinned by his actuarial background. His functional roles spread across technical, management, governance, non-executive director, and business development roles - sometimes in combination! Geographically, David has covered all parts of Asia, including as CEO of the Hong Kong branch of a global reinsurer, and the United Kingdom, where he is now a consultant and advisor. These are David’s reflections on the skills, experience and behaviours that helped him on his career journey:
“Interested in a varied career? My career story may be able to give you a helping hand.
Looking back, my father gave me some advice at a relatively young age that I should get myself a trade or profession as the basis of my career. It was only much later that I saw what a good investment that was. I happened to become an actuary, but you may be an engineer, a surveyor, lawyer, doctor etc etc. It doesn’t really matter, but he was right that having a profession brings with it an ethical foundation and some professional support as well the technical knowledge you gain through examinations and continuing professional development.
Any profession brings advantages in securing work and gaining the respect of your colleagues. It also brings responsibilities towards the public interest, your profession and of course your client(s). A highly regarded profession brings opportunities. However, whilst that qualification gives you a springboard for your career, you still have to deliver in your work life in order to continue making progress.
Opportunities also bring change, and that means stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. You need to be motivated to take on the challenge and have some strategies to give yourself the best chance of success. The reward is potentially a series of engaging roles and development opportunities. These in turn lead to more substantial jobs and challenges. How far you expand your horizons and how substantial the roles you aim for is really up to you.
Let me tell you about some of the opportunities I was fortunate enough to come across and brave enough to have a go at and how I was able to be successful at them. Read more for my reflections...
Natasha Naidoo is the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) for a UK subsidiary of an international insurer. She has consciously and deliberately managed her career since her early roles as an actuarial student, through qualifying as an actuary, and completing her Executive MBA at London Business School, and has worked for insurers directly as well as a consultant. In these reflections on her career, she shares three elements fundamental to her career success so far:
“I realised relatively early in my career that I had a strong interest in risk management. I entered a risk role in my second year of work, and have performed risk-related roles for most of my career since. I also have the view that most of the benefit of risk professionals is when they are seen as a key decision-maker, effectively supporting and steering business decisions. As a result I have had, at times, an almost singular focus on managing my career path towards an executive risk role.
There were three elements that were common in the approach I took as I transitioned different career stages towards an executive position: (i) profile exposure, (ii) mentorship and (iii) sponsorship. Before I describe how I actively managed these elements in my career, a brief interlude on foundations in my education that I was fortunate enough to benefit from. In those formative years, the systems at school and university provided me with a blend of the three elements without me having to put in additional effort… Those experiences did highlight to me, however, their importance for me to manage in my post-qualification years.
The roles of Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) and Chief Data & Analytics Officer (CDAO) are relatively new, having grown in adoption significantly over the past decade as data has become ‘the new oil’ and as traditional companies seek to contend with digital competitors. These senior roles are now found within a variety of data-intensive industries, especially within Financial Services and Healthcare, and increasingly in others too.
...There is a wide-open field in many industries for developing products and services that have data and analytics baked into them.”
A 2019 NewVantage Partners survey found that almost 70% of respondents reported having a CDO, significant growth from 12% in 2012 when their first survey was done. While Financial Services firms compromised the majority of respondents (“data-mature firms that maintain high-value customer relationships and invest significant sums to manage their data”), Healthcare firms also shared their views (“businesses that are undergoing rapid transformation – data rich, but often less data-mature”), as did businesses in other industries. The survey highlighted the “creation of a yet newer role [than CDO] – the Chief Data and Analytics Officer – integrating the data and analytics responsibilities within a single executive.”
As Forbes Insights puts it: ““It’s safe to say that a flood of data – 250 billion terabytes created every day – has swept the chief data officer into the C-suite.”
As firms globally strive to harness the power of data and face challenges along the way, the demand for data scientists and analysts continues to increase. This post discusses the evolution of data-driven roles, some challenges of executive roles in these disciplines, and key skills to improve the likelihood of success in these roles, drawing on the insights of Tom Davenport, A. Charles Thomas and others. Read more to explore the nature of data and analytics roles, and their growing executive influence, in this latest entry in our Routes to the Top series...