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What is an Actuary?

The Highly Ranked Profession that Almost No One Understands

You know the scene. It happens at every party or barbecue you’ve ever attended. You meet someone new and chat for a while. Eventually the conversation runs dry so you turn to those tried and true small talk topics. Once you are finished talking about the weather they ask you what you do for a living.

“I’m an actuary.”

Next, one of two things happens:

  1. “Cool! Really? My [cousin, sister, roommate, best friend from elementary school] is an actuary! I’ve heard you have to take A LOT of tests.” Or, more often,
  2. *Crickets*

So what is an actuary anyways? To generalize, they are credentialed professionals, who employ a mix of business, financial, IT and legal knowledge to solve complex business problems and help organizations optimize their financial risks. That didn’t help clarify? Let’s look at some of the jobs that actuaries do. You may be surprised how many of them impact your everyday life.

Jobs Filled by Actuaries

  • At Watkins Ross, the actuarial staff is responsible for valuing and consulting on retirement plan issues. This involves helping employers determine the costs of their defined benefit pension plans, cash balance plans and retiree medical benefits as well as consulting on retirement plan trends, retirement benefit designs that help attract and retain high-level employees and strategies to help manage the cost of these benefits.
  • Actuaries are the people who determine what premium you should pay for life insurance, health insurance, car insurance, and really insurance of any kind.
  • Actuaries are also the people who make sure that insurance companies understand how much money to keep in the bank to pay for the benefits they promised.
  • Actuaries are often involved in the process to estimate the cost of proposed federal legislation before it goes to vote.
  • Actuaries sit on the executive team at many financial organizations, filling roles like Chief Financial Officer, Chief Risk Officer and sometimes even Chief Executive Officer.
  • Actuaries also fill a number of other roles, considered to be “non-traditional” where their analytical approach to solving business problems of all kinds is highly valued.

Lastly, let’s talk about a few things that actuaries are NOT.

Things Actuaries are NOT

  • They are not like Ben Stiller’s character in Along Came Polly. (Along Came Polly Movie Clip)
  • Actuaries are not magic genies who can tell you how long you will live.
  • Increasingly, actuaries are not just number-crunching nerds who are kept in the back office producing reports that only they can understand. As business problems become more complex, actuaries need to be good communicators with business acumen and management potential, regardless of their particular job function.

Interested in Learning More?

You can always reach out to a member of our Client Management Team for more information about the actuarial services we provide.

For more information about the actuarial profession, www.beanactuary.org is a great resource.

 

Blog authored by Kylie Young, ASA, Actuary. 

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