• Bio: Chris started off in a more unusual end of the profession, developing actuarial software. Since, he has become an MCEV reviewing actuary, reporting on the value of a company's assets and projecting future profitability for shareholders.
  • Role: MCEV Reviewing Actuary
  • Organisation: Friends Life

Chris Darby

Having worked in a wide variety of actuarial roles I have obtained experience of the rich and rewarding career paths within the actuarial profession. My own career path has involved time spent in the following practice areas:

  • Private sector pensions consulting
  • Actuarial software development
  • Public sector pensions consulting
  • Life insurance.

When I graduated from Southampton University with a degree in Mathematics in 1999 I had no firm idea as to what I wanted to do next. I started to do some research into various careers and found myself drawn to the actuarial profession as it was mathematically based and offered a variety of career paths. I was fortunate enough to become an actuarial trainee shortly after.

Working History:

Private sector pensions consulting
I spent my early years working in a small department within a private sector pension consultancy, whilst also making progress with the actuarial exams which you are required to pass to qualify as an actuary.

In this role I developed basic technical skills and enjoyed the team atmosphere and variety of work. Being a smaller actuarial department, it also enabled me to pursue my interest in software development, and I spent time developing software to perform various pension related calculations for use within the company’s actuarial and administration departments.

The experience I gained enabled me to move to a specialist actuarial software development company.

Actuarial software developer
As an actuarial software developer I worked for a small niche employer where I specified, wrote and optimised internet based software products. This was a less traditional actuarial role, but one which I found used my technical actuarial skills, as we were developing actuarial based solutions.

As the software was innovative and there was no set template to follow, it offered the opportunity for some creativity: both over how the calculation code should work, as well as the look and feel of the software.

Public sector pensions consultant
My next move was to become a consultant within the niche area of public sector pensions consulting within a large multinational consultancy firm. This involved providing advice connected to several different public sector pension schemes and various sub funds within those schemes. This included large local government pension scheme funds with pension fund assets of over one billion pounds.

Public sector pensions consulting has its own unique characteristics and I found myself adapting my thought process accordingly.

It was during this time that I qualified as an actuary, which was a highly rewarding experience. Before long this led to me taking more control and responsibility for client work, including final scrutiny and sign off of written advice to clients and presenting the results of our analysis in client meetings. I also enjoyed training more junior members of the team, managing others and taking ownership of some key projects.

MCEV reporting actuary
In my current role I work within the financial reporting team in a large life insurance company. There are many different areas within the company in which actuaries may choose to specialise and rotate. I currently work on Market Consistent Embedded Value (MCEV) reporting. This involves placing a value on the company’s current assets and future profitability from the perspective of its shareholders.

This helps shareholders to monitor the performance of the company. The primary role involves analysing how the overall embedded value changes from one reporting period to the next. This requires an understanding of what drives profitability within the business. Life insurance company products are rich and varied and different products respond differently to changes in underlying conditions. This makes the work both challenging and interesting.

In addition, the role requires liaising with various other departments within the business, managing the work to tight timescales and explaining the results to others who are not so close to the calculations.

Variety

One of the things I like about the profession is that there are different roles and companies to suit to different people. There is no such thing as a typical actuary, and this is encouraged by the profession whilst ensuring a high level of technical expertise and professionalism which is common to all.

Whilst there is a mathematical grounding required to complete the actuarial exams, a career within the actuarial profession can develop a wide range of skills from the more technical:

  • Actuarial analytical skills
  • Interpreting regulations and professional guidance
  • Software programming and development
  • Spreadsheet development
  • Project management.

To softer skills such as:

  • Training and development of others
  • Managing people
  • Producing marketing literature
  • Presenting complex issues to a non-actuarial audience
  • Drafting documentation for internal and external use.

On top of this there is a wide range of specialist areas within the profession of which I have sampled only a few. This means that there is likely to be a role to suit most people interested in working in the actuarial industry.

Looking forward

The ever changing world, including technical and regulatory development and fluctuating economic conditions, continuously impacts on actuarial work. This means the profession is always evolving and there is always something new or unexpected around the corner. However, actuaries are always ready to embrace and face new challenges. Every change presents a new opportunity, and with a strong actuarial grounding challenges can be overcome.

I look forward to my years ahead in my chosen profession.

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