Actuary Morphs Into Coach


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Actuary Morphs Into Coach

  1. 1. Article from: The Stepping Stone October 2004 – Issue No. 16
  2. 2. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT—Career Development Actuary Morphs Into Coach by Gerald A. Fryer T “Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” working with our marketing people, as well as —Tom Stoppard speaking publicly at our branches and other fo- rums, which I thoroughly enjoyed. he nontraditional phase of my career has There is nothing more instructive than work- just begun. In this article I will explain ing in a high performing team under a great why coaching was a logical, if somewhat leader, which I had the immense good surprising, career option for my phase 2, and fortune to do on a few occasions—particularly how my practice will be able to support my when one has experienced its opposite. Because original profession. of this exposure, I began to study the difference Gerald A. Fryer, FSA, between good and poor leaders, as well as the FCIA, is a consulting Beginnings characteristics of productive and non-produc- actuary in Thornhill, Why did you enter your profession? The com- tive teams. Ontario. mon thread that connects most actuaries is an I was part of the organization’s middle man- affinity for mathematics, along with a prefer- agement, although that term was something of ence for business applications. In addition, I had a misnomer, as I headed up small teams that the equivalent (it was 1969, before these terms never exceeded three or four people. Looking achieved general currency) of a personal mis- back, what really invigorated my career from sion statement when I started out: time to time was the high-potential people—ac- tuarial students and others—who worked with “To improve the financial security of Canadians.” me. Together, we produced vast amounts of quality work. We were more or less partners; You probably had hopes and dreams for we had great discussions about what we were your career as well, going beyond merely finan- doing and why; they generated new ideas; they cial ones, in terms of making a contribution to were not afraid to fail; and invariably they your chosen profession or to society in general. proved to be successful later on in their careers. When we moved on to do other things, I felt a The “Actuary Phase” real sense of loss. I spent my entire first career at a single insur- In the early 1990s, as Canadian life insurance ...what really ance company. Given the times, this experience company consolidation became a looming reali- invigorated my was never dull—in fact, it became increasingly ty, my own company began to respond with in- career from time fascinating as inflation heated up, product inno- ternal reorganizations, new strategic plans and to time were the vation grew and competition increased rapidly. then employee training initiatives to support high-potential I experienced the usual planned and unplanned the empowerment that followed. Suddenly we moves from area to area along with gradual were taking courses about possibility thinking, people—actuarial upward movement in the organization. I had changing ingrained habits and attitudes, how to students and the luxury of concentrating on building my visualize and imprint stretch targets and then others—who worked technical skills, relatively sheltered from events inventing the means to get there, and so on. with me...We were in the outside world compared to what was to I was so taken with the power of this new in- more or less come. formation for driving change that I facilitated partners. Bearing in mind my original mission, I grav- these courses for other staff members on a num- itated to product development work and was ber of occasions. always keen to balance the company’s desire Everything came together in 1997, when I for its profit targets with exceptional customer became the leader of a start-up business unit of value, be it price competitiveness or some de- 40 people. This was a tremendous learning ex- gree of product differentiation. This led to perience in people management, strategic plan- 14 • The Stepping Stone • October 2004
  3. 3. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT—Career Development Actuary Morphs Into Coach • continued from prior page ning, legacy systems replacement and leading ception: the accountability for results in the in- edge concepts such as the balanced scorecard. tensive coaching relationship lies completely Theory became reality, as everything I had with the client. learned about leadership, team-building and So was there a logical path from the actuary I change management was now translated into had become to entering the coaching profes- real-time planning and decision making. sion? The reader may have picked up the clues: The profit center proved to be successful in many dimensions: organizational development, Helping—The original mission to improve process management, customer research and financial security has changed into helping profitability. What was clear to me, though, specific individuals make progress with what was that it was all contingent on tackling the matters in their lives. people issues that are at the heart of so many Entrepreneurship—From being a leader and business problems. an entrepreneur to setting up my own practice. Amateur to Professional Coach—The multi- The essence of ple experiences I had had with high-potential Choosing Coaching personal coaching The forces of consolidation did not exempt my employees were quasi-coaching, before I is that coach and prior company. After a period of rest and relax- even knew the meaning of the word. client form a collabo- ation, I realized that I could pursue multiple Facilitation—The in-house seminar facilita- growth possibilities. The experiences and rative and dynamic tion experience was an introduction to coach- opportunities of the actuary phase, while they relationship, in which ing on a group basis, as well as to some of the gradually and perhaps inevitably led me away coaching concepts. the coach is at the from pure actuarial work, opened up many new Shared Experience—Years of being in an service of the client career vistas. The most powerful of these expe- increasingly exposed financial services com- in forwarding the riences was working with high-potential people pany provide an experience base for coaching latter’s agenda over the course of my career—in helping others those who are exposed now. to grow and change, I had become transformed. for growth. Coaching turned out to be an opportunity to work with people who are motivated to change Giving Back The 2003 SOA white paper entitled “Long Term their lives in some way. I am delighted to dis- Growth & Vitality of the Actuarial Profession,” cover a new learning and growth opportunity while noting the strengths of the profession and that meshes so well with my own latent inter- its members, pointed out our weaknesses in ests. areas such as: The essence of personal coaching is that coach and client form a collaborative and dy- Communication namic relationship, in which the coach is at the Focusing on the big picture service of the client in forwarding the latter’s Proactive approach agenda for growth. The client is responsible for Taking informed, bold risks the content of the relationship, while the coach Business acumen structures the ongoing process and their con- versations, so that the client is better able to The Management and Personal Develop- achieve their goals in whatever areas of life they ment Section is tasked with helping actuaries choose. The coach asks questions—the client is develop these “business savvy” skills—but the considered to have the answers or to be able to ultimate responsibility lies with the individual. find them. In this respect (and others), coaching In Canada, a CIA Task Force on Enhancing is distinct from consulting and therapy. the Demand for Actuaries reported its agree- This is very different from actuarial mathe- ment with the SOA white paper’s direction in matics! However, what a coach does on an in- early 2004, with one major addendum. The task tensive basis resembles what an actuary who force felt that mergers and acquisitions (M&A) has evolved into a management role does when activity had led to a “burning platform” north they have their coaching hat on, with one ex- of the border, as numerous mid-career actuaries (continued on page 26) October 2004 • The Stepping Stone • 15
  4. 4. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT—Career Development Actuary Morphs Into A Coach • continued from page 15 are out of work or are soon to be identified as most effective methodologies to move people to redundant. These are the people who can bene- greater levels of growth and fulfillment in their fit most immediately by developing some or all lives. In the co-active coaching model that I have of the skills noted in the previous paragraph. described, it is interesting that each coach/client My primary direction in coaching will be to relationship is customized to that client’s focus on actuaries who want to upgrade their needs—reminiscent of a universal life approach. business savvy skills, either inside or outside The coach’s challenge is to bring their coach- their current career. ing toolkit, as well as their own life skills, to bear on each situation in order to help the Looking Forward client. This leads to my newly updated mission statement: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” “To help actuaries and others achieve greater —Benjamin Disraeli levels of career and personal satisfaction.” K Coaching is a relatively new profession, but it already has a rich literature dedicated to the Chairperson’s Corner • continued from page 3 Ethical behavior is still critical. The com- In addition to that, I expect the pace of plexity of the financial services industry can change to continue to accelerate. We will be make it easier to take advantage of the con- challenged to keep up with the change and to sumer or the shareholder. Actuaries still have a increase our comfort with ambiguity. role to protect the shareholder and the con- The retirement of the baby boomers will sumer. change the world in ways we can’t imagine. Our work is still very interesting. Using our This will have a tremendous social and eco- skills to solve a wide variety of business prob- nomic impact. Will retirement, as we know it, lems is fun! go away? Will the stock market crash and inter- est rates plummet as the baby boomers move What will the future look like? their money to more conservative investments? Given the direction of interest rates over the last Will retirement and health systems crumble 20 years, I’m predicting that in 2011, interest under their weight? I don’t know … but actuar- rates will range between minus 5 percent and ies will be key players in meeting these chal- plus 25 percent. lenges. K 26 • The Stepping Stone • October 2004