Actuaries are looking to broaden the horizons of their profession, while cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship and also giving themselves an image boost in the process.
These aims were outlined in the opening plenary session of the Actuaries Institute last week (April 27) in what must be the longest industry conference ever held. It is the ‘2021 All Actuaries Virtual Summit’, being held between April 27 and May 27, with attendees and speakers covering 11 countries.
In his opening remarks, Jefferson Gibbs, the institute president, said that he saw his role to champion actions which created opportunities for actuaries. He said that currently the profession was “overweight financial services.”
Financial services made up about 9 per cent of Australia’s GDP, he said. This meant that about 90 per cent consisted of more opportunities.
“We are too tied to financial services. There are many entrepreneurs among actuaries,” he said. There was not enough risk, as an example. “It is great to see a steady growth in risk management and insurance. But it’s time to get behind it and push forward. I would also like to see us at the leading edge of data analytics.”
Gibbs said: “Risk management and data analytics can give us an opportunity to expand beyond financial services. But it is up to us to define what a ‘real actuary’ is and what we do.”
He introduced marketing expert Dee Madigan to address the profession’s image issue and make some suggestions for improvement. Madigan, popularly known for appearances on the ABC program on advertising, the Gruen Transfer, has worked on some of the world’s best known brands including Coca-Cola, Rexona and Nestle.
She said the image problem for actuaries was that half of the population did not know what they did and undervalued their work. “That’s it in a nutshell,” she said. Being an actuary did not sound like an exciting career.
“You have to acknowledge the problem and take responsibility for it,” she said. “You need to attract better people to the industry. At least 70 per cent of re-brands fail because people resist change, so you have to get everyone in the sector on board. Look at what companies such as KPMG have done for accountants, or Adobe for software. They changed their sectors to be more exciting.”
She said: “A brand is not a logo or a strapline. It’s a promise and a good brand is a promise kept. You need to move away from being the fun police to position yourselves to be opportunity exploiters. People trust you…
“You need to view yourselves differently first. Creativity is at the heart of every business and sector. This starts with hiring well. Look at different pathways to hire people. If you want to wow customers, the best way to start is by wowing your employees first. You should employ diversity, but not in a tick-the-box way. People with different perspectives can drive innovation.”
Madigan said the most important thing was to question, including questioning customers. “Learn to ask things,” she said. “It’s like ‘would you like fries with that?’. You don’t know unless you ask. Ask your clients: ‘What about doing this?’.”