• Bio: Nick qualified as an actuary when the financial services market was booming and opportunities were everywhere. Now, he finds that his actuarial qualifications have ensured respect and stability, something that's sought after in today's economy. He gives us an insight into the ever changing role of the modern day actuary.
  • Role: Lead Actuary, Consumer
  • Organisation: Royal London Group

Nick Reilly

My Dad once said to me that I was not a typical actuary. I took this as a compliment.

In the current world, actuaries must be more than just number crunchers. We need to understand why we are doing what we are doing, challenge where needed, and, equally importantly, develop relationships and a rapport with those individuals we deal with. I hope that’s what has made me different, but I hope future generations make me look like a typical ‘new’ actuary.

What made you choose to become an actuary?

Being honest, I don’t think I really planned on having a career as an actuary. It was a friend of mine who suggested I look into it, and a role was available near to where I lived after graduating, so I took it. I had been told the exams were hard, but I had never had a problem with exams before, so my first exam results session was a real shock, as I had managed to fail all of them. Instead of putting me off, it ensured that I never went into an exam under prepared, and I ensured I understood the notes, rather than just rote learning them. After two years I took a year off to go round the world, to give me time to decide if I really wanted to qualify. As you can guess, I decided to start studying again, and within a few years had qualified

… and would you do it again?

Possibly not, after all, at the time the financial services market was buoyant, opportunities were everywhere, and the time spent studying could have been used working the long hours needed to earn the substantial salaries prevalent in other areas of financial services. However, am I now glad I did it? Definitely, as I now have one of, if not the, hardest and most respected qualifications in financial services. This means I can command a high salary, have a range of employment opportunities and can expect to take on more responsibility. Becoming an actuary also gives the financial stability needed with a mortgage and children. So, overall, would I do it again? On balance yes, as the security and stability, as well as future opportunities outweigh the short term benefits if I hadn’t done the exams. After all, I’m relatively risk averse

How has your career developed since 2012?

Four years ago, I was asked to put in a profile for Inside Careers. As part of that, I was asked ‘where do you see your future’, so it was interesting to revisit what I had said while at HSBC. My intention then was – ‘to really make a difference, after all, we sell promises (whatever area of financial services that is), so we need to ensure that they are kept. I’m passionate about developing clear and simple products that fit the needs of our customers, and I see myself continuing to add my input wherever possible in this area.’

I left HSBC for the role of Lead Actuary in Royal London’s Consumer Division. The company had made the strategic decision to build and develop a range of Customer Insight led Direct to Customer products, concentrating on simple, clear and fair products. I was very happy to accept the job, as this was a golden opportunity to take up a role that could make a real difference to those customers who cannot, or will not, get advice on financial products.

What is the best part of your role?

As I am directly within the Proposition team, I have a direct input in the way we design, price and market our products. Not only can I add the traditional actuarial skills, to ensure the financials stack up, I am also asked to contribute into our work on identifying Conduct risks, as well as any TCF considerations, to ensure we have a fair value exchange between us and our customers.

That means that, as an actuary, I am embedded in the proposition process, from start to finish, and so I can add my skills and understanding to complement those of the product managers, underwriters and claims managers.

I am also viewed as the expert in Financial risks within the Consumer Division, so I identify, manage and mitigate any insurance risks within the business, to ensure we fully understand the risks we are running. This is more traditional actuarial work, but is essential for the smooth running, and long term stability, of the business.

Where do you see your future?

In the last few years I have become more involved in the IFoA (Institute and Faculty of Actuaries), and now sit on their Health and Care Board, have Chaired their Health and Care Conference, and have presented at a range of events on a range of issues. I would like to continue this involvement, as this enables me to share my ideas, views and opinions with a wider audience and opinion formers, as well as giving something back to my Profession.

Outside of work, I am a School Governor at our village school, and am looking to take up voluntary Non-Executive Director roles in a couple of technology based start-up companies. These roles will provide me with valuable Board level experience, as well as enabling me to provide my skills to organisations whom require my financial abilities the most.

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