How to become a Chief Actuary

We’re delighted to have Vinny Hughes, Associate for Oliver James Associates New York as today’s guest blogger. 

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the SOA Conference in Austin, TX. A fantastic experience and a great opportunity to meet some fascinating and passionate individuals. Each day gave me the opportunity to attend seminars and presentations by industry leaders. 

The highlight of these was an interactive session with four of North America’s leading Chief Actuaries and executives; Richard Lambert (Prudential), Tanya Manning (Buck Consultants), Jianhau Yu (Priority Health) and Mike Kaster (Willis Re). 

Here are a few of the important points that I took away from the session on “How to become the next Chief Actuary”: 


You are responsible for leading a team of actuaries and will require their trust and confidence that you are leading them strategically, commercial and most importantly technically. Without having the right credentials, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. Gain a Fellowship as soon as possible and then focus on honing your all round skill set. 


Being able to communicate complex and technical information effectively and succinctly to a non-technical audience is important when dealing with a CFO, CEO, Board members and internal/external stakeholders, who are not actuaries. Listening to people is equally as important. 

Take some risks 

Striving to reach the top means you have to operate outside of your comfort zone. Take opportunities to improve your technical skills, give you international experience or give you in insight into how other parts of the business work (e.g. a financial role). You will develop confidence and also resilience when the risks might not go according to plan. 


Strong leadership skills can be accredited to excellent listening skills. If you need more of an understanding on a matter, ask consultants, ask peers, ask your team and seek advice. You cannot learn without asking and listening to what they say! 


Think higher level, think of your boss and put yourself in their position. What is important to them? What are their goals? How can you help deliver business information to them which will help them achieve their goals? 

Extra curriculum 

Stand out from the crowd; continual learning and development is essential to progressing your career; investigate options that enhance your ability; from taking additional coursers at college; PHD or MBA, to learning a new language and/or volunteering within the SOA. 


Think about your peers’ agendas before meetings. Arrange an informal meeting with people you know will be in the meeting. Listen to their perspective and build professional relationships. 

There are multiple paths available in order to achieve your goal and no right or wrong way of doing it. You will make mistakes but bouncing back from these and learning every day will get you to where you want to be. Pick a style of leadership that you are comfortable with, build respect with your peers and love what you do! 

If you're interested in advancing your actuarial career, email to arrange a confidential chat.