Succeeding in the market takes more than just getting the numbers right
Posted by Mark Laid, Group Chief Actuary
Mark Laidlaw, Group Chief Actuary at LV= shares his thoughts on the critical importance of giving people opportunities, encouragement and a strong platform to develop a rewarding and varied actuarial career.
Things are all starting to become very real now and in a time when our minds are so focused on models, procedures and deadlines, it could be all too easy to overlook the most important component of all: the people. Leadership and development is at the very core of my role as Group Chief Actuary at LV= and my focus has largely been on building actuarial teams that are best in class and can make a key contribution to our growth agenda. Historically in the actuarial community, we’ve had great technical people but not always the best ‘people people’. To make the most of Solvency II, we need to strike that balance. I’m working hard with my teams to create actuaries of the future who can not only operate successfully within technical roles but as true business partners.
Right now, that’s more important than ever. Gone are the days of actuaries just being the people who ‘produce the numbers’; the impact of Solvency II will amplify the importance of looking beyond just the nuts and bolts. We should never just be producing numbers for numbers’ sake. I believe it’s imperative that we are thinking about what new information means for our products, capital and businesses. We’ve been looking inwardly for the last few years, focused on getting the processes, procedures and systems right. Now that’s done – or nearly done – and we’re in the last quarter, it’s time to move forward and question what key organisational decisions we should be making. What are the numbers really telling? What products work well? What assets should we be investing in? What risks should we be taking, and are we being rewarded for those risks? To do this effectively, it’s crucial that we are upskilling our people and giving individuals the chance to learn, grow and truly understand the business and market we operate in.
Continuous professional development (CPD) has always been of the highest importance to me. I believe it’s a core component of any strong actuarial function. It’s not just about getting the most talented actuaries on board; you have to give them the space to develop, the opportunities to get involved in different projects and the freedom to share ideas and think more widely about the implications and impact of their work. It’s something I’m passionate about as a leader as it empowers people to have much deeper and more interesting roles, while doing great things for the business.
I don’t believe in working in siloes. At LV= all of our actuarial teams are based in one place and having Life and General Insurance together presents varied challenges, especially as diversification of risk is now a large part of our wider plan. Solvency II has put organisations in a position where we need to be considering our lines and associated risks very closely. Because we write various lines of insurance at LV=, we have a strong business model in this respect and risks often offset one another. This makes it all the more important that actuaries are working together and collaborating with the wider organisation. In order to consistently deliver effective risk solutions, we should be sharing knowledge, integrating and developing close working relationships. A lot of my time is spent with the Board and other leaders in the business, discussing what the effects of Solvency II mean for our capital efficiency, competitive advantage and the longevity of our balance sheet.
As leaders, we shouldn’t just want to develop carbon copies of ourselves. The fresh ideas and different perspectives that individuals bring enable us to find innovative solutions to ongoing challenges and to better represent our diverse base of customers and members. In the past, the industry has let itself down with development opportunities for women and I’m trying to tackle this and make sure we have the tools in place to give everyone a clear and barrier-free platform into senior roles. In my time at LV= I’ve worked hard to redefine the actuarial function and I’m proud that we now have a diverse, hugely talented team and a dynamic and engaged environment, where people can get involved in exciting projects, grasp opportunities and progress fast in their careers. What’s the secret? Strong values, an encouraging culture, a focus on talent management and CPD – and perhaps, a good dose of sea air!