Trusting and Stretching Your Actuarial Muscle

Forging ahead to a brave new future and vision for actuaries and the actuarial profession

By Mukami Njeru

The actuarial skillset and training is focused on ensuring strong rigour and technique in building models, based on established tried and tested techniques to solve real world problems; mainly in insurance and pensions and now adjacent fields such as baking and risk management.

I will focus on the equally important part of the actuarial journey of feeling comfortable to use our skillset in different and indeed higher levels (of lower granularity) and where one takes other stakeholders along the journey.

If you are like me you enjoy a good marvel superhero movie, or you enjoy a form of physical activity, you know what it takes to build a muscle and skillset. Most of us with inborn mathematical acumen dedicate an average of 5-7 years to this journey of becoming a qualified actuary. Then we may plan to go into the traditional areas where most actuaries practice and aim to live out our career life in moderate bliss where we are cushioned from the extremities of life as our income levels are above average and mostly cushioned from the extremities of the professional environment because we can always retreat to our technical corner and comfort zone whenever things get hectic or heated.

Such scenarios can be presented in the manner of uncertainty levels that are unprecedented in both magnitude and frequency such as the Global Financial Crisis or the Covid Pandemic. Talk of the rise of AI and rapidly evolving scenarios that are faster than our model adjustments can allow. Think of the stakeholders who are not willing to give us the patience we know is needed to ensure rigour and a level of certainty with our outcomes. Not to be left behind, there is emergence of new mathematical skillsets or techniques that are not unique to actuaries.

Adaptation is necessary for survival. Ash Barty a retired female tennis player is going into golfing while Serena Williams, well appreciated as one of the GOATs, has retired and is transitioning into business. We cannot and should not wait for circumstances to force us to adapt, no we need to be courageous and  confident that the base skill set we have can form a good foundation for any and every role where problem solving is involved.

How do we do this – how have I done this?

  1. Consciously developing soft skills as one develops their technical skills.
  2. Being conscious of brand development and placement both individually and corporate.
  3. Continuous feedback and interaction with key non-actuarial stakeholders.
  4. Not hiding behind the numbers and formulae.
  5. Interest and Exposure to other areas and fields.
  6. Mentorship and coaching.
  7. Keep learning 100%.

I am lucky that circumstances have forced me to stretch my actuarial muscle.

I was recently part of a group formed by a number of forward thinking experienced members of Institute and Faculty of Actuaries that are convinced of the need to change our vision mindset skillsets and domains.

We looked at three horizons and the possible adaptation we could and need to get to as the profession as a matter of urgency.

It is quite natural to mull over ideas and visions for the future, however fanciful, while attending to day-to-day realities. The project is founded on developing this capacity, available to everyone, as the basis for thinking clearly and purposefully about transformative regeneration which we can agree we all need.

Three Horizons Thinking opens a visionary and practical method to articulate how to move to future qualities and values:

  • Current reality, Horizon One, is the realm of managing and delivering present needs and wants by present We are calling into question the sustainability of a huge proportion of current patterns of activities, and the very premises on which such patterns have been created.
  • Horizon Three is where we want to be, that is, agile, reliable, relatable, accurate. This is a presently held articulation of viable and desired potential futures, and the values they grow from,discovered as current seedlings of developing
  • The turbulent transition zone, Horizon Two, brings a focus of entrepreneurial energy, innovation and initiative to discover and create viable patterns that can bring necessary transformation into reality.

These three modes of thought and understanding involve distinct ways of social collaboration and economic behaviour. Learning to envision, think and act together in these ways brings shared competence to the present process of creating desirable and worthwhile futures.

Competence in Three Horizons practice creates a foundation for learning and application of additional methods to tackle the momentum of complexities, ambiguities, and unpredictabilities that are arising more frequently every day.

I am confident that we will forge ahead to a brave new future and vision for actuaries and the actuarial profession, where we embrace innovation and transformation and are also part of the transformation, are a catalyst and are part of the transition and management of the same.

Here is the entire presentation:

Mukami Njeru is the Head of Actuarial and Insurance Management Services, West Market Area at PwC and Director of Actuarial Academy of East Africa