Category Archives: Letters

Soapbox: In praise of pioneers

Dr Geraldine Kaye interviewed by the famous magazine The Actuary investigates ways to encourage members of the actuarial profession to advance into new areas where actuaries can put their skills to use.

In time, a wheel turns full circle. In the first few volumes of the actuarial journal dating back to 1851 are papers relating to fire and other forms of general insurance. Yet, just around 15 years ago, when I started conducting general insurance salary surveys, there were only approximately 100 general insurance actuaries and general insurance was at that time being hailed as the new area for actuaries to explore.

When I first became an actuary, my dream was to become the first female stockbroker. It’s just as well that I didn’t, as the first lady stockbroker was ‘drummed out’. Back then, there were many actuaries in the investment field sliding up and down the yield curves. Now, there appears to be a relatively small number of investment actuaries in relation to the total number of actuaries that now exist. Why has this departure from such a lucrative field occurred? Dare I say that the Profession has not made it easy for them to remain within its folds?

I joined the Argonauts Dining Club about 25 years ago and I am proud to have been elected as chairperson of the club this year. The Argonauts is a dining club for actuaries working in the non-traditional fields or in non-standard occupations such as investment. Its remit has recently been widened to include general insurance actuaries as there were no specific dining clubs to cater for them. When I joined, I was an academic actuary and there were only a few academic actuaries — now there are many.

But why are actuaries turning away from the profession either by lapsing their membership or just denying or converting their membership to Affiliate status? I am particularly aware of this trend as chairperson of Argonauts, because it directly affects my members.

Most of these could be a case of ‘what’s in it for me?’ syndrome and, even worse, for some there are actually advantages in lapsing. Now that Type 3 membership of the Institute has been abolished, wider-fields actuaries must attend professionalism courses run by the Profession. As mentioned on the People/Society pages in the October 2011 edition of The Actuary on Argonauts: actuaries journeying though uncharted waters, the current CPD costs and bureaucracy are forcing experienced wider-field actuaries out of the profession.

Nobody argues that CPD is not a good thing but it must be relevant and appropriate. Many actuaries in the wider fields must not only pay their own professional subscriptions, but also fees for attendance at courses. However, money is only a small part of it. There is also the dismay that comes from having to take time out of their precious holiday allowance for attendance.

There seems to me to be few advantages in remaining a full member of the Profession rather than the cheaper version of an affiliate unless one is a ‘signing’ actuary or relishes in kudos the membership this exclusive club provides.

Why have I gone into such detail about this? For a start, new fields are trodden by pioneers. An HR director I once dealt with likened employing actuaries to addiction: “They are addictive — if you have one, you want more”. If they don’t have one (or worse, have one but don’t know it), then it might well be safe to say that they wouldn’t want more. To drive actuarial careers into new fields, we must encourage vision within our membership and keep them in the fold, not drive them out.

When I set up GAAPS Actuarial, a recruitment company dedicated to actuaries over 20 years ago, there were only a few actuaries as recruiters. At that time, many questioned my departure from the actuarial profession — I persevered and responded that I had not stopped being an actuary, I was merely utilising my skills in a new field. “Every change is chancy” goes the old Yemenite proverb, and chance was what I took in my change of profession. Now more and more actuaries have come forth in the recruitment industry — it has even become an acceptable profession for an actuary.

Challenging as it is for actuarial careers to advance into new areas, we must encourage pioneers by making it both effortless and simple to remain within the folds of the profession. New fields grow out of the work of these pioneers, and much less so from artificial lobbying and seeding by the Profession itself.

We must support our actuarial pioneers and their enterprises and must not forget to also refer to our history when searching out new avenues of endeavour.

(24 Nov 2011 by , Dr Geraldine Kaye)


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Letter of the Month: Women in the Profession

The following letter by Dr Geraldine Kaye, MD of GAAPS was published as Letter of the Month in this month’s issue of The Actuary Magazine

Women in the Profession
In response to your invitation for feedback on the introduction of the page dedicated to the profession’s female actuaries, I write as one of the first ever female actuaries to qualify in the UK — I was within the first 20. Times have moved on, or so I had thought.

Reading The Actuary magazine and coming across a special page for women in our professional magazine seems demeaning. Non-professional issues are, in my opinion, dealt with perfectly adequately elsewhere. On a professional level, there are no differences between men and women in the actuarial profession. We have taken and passed the same exams.

A page dedicated to female actuaries seems not only superfluous, given today’s heavily legislated business conduct stipulated against gender bias, but comes across as patronising towards achievements from both genders. Surely what is achieved by both male and female actuaries are celebrated on the same page. No doubt, with careful forethought, a note that has been included to encompass male interest, seems to contradict the point of a page dedicated to women in the first place?

This may be a ‘call to action’ page for women to participate in the opportunities increasingly available to them worldwide, but surely a way to address issues and celebrate women in the actuarial profession should not be narrowed down in drawing a deliberate line to differentiate gender achievements in the actuarial industry when we are trying to achieve equality?
G. Kaye
8 September 2011

Editor’s comment:
Helen Crofts’ suggestion to have a women’s page in the magazine was widely debated and 
I sought the views of the editorial advisory panel and other actuaries — male and female. There was no consensus view. The aim of the page was to have a home for resources related to women in business. In the spirit of sharing information that was indicated to be of interest to at least some of the readership, across the gender spectrum, I suggested a trial page with the aim of gauging feedback from readers. I have since received mixed feedback, from males and females alike, and I thank you for taking the time to write in.

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More independent trustees needed – FT Letters

Sir, Private sector schemes now effectively provide inflation-proofed pensions. Although there are caps on the level of inflation-proofing required, in today’s low inflation environment those caps do not bite, and the cost of the schemes has risen accordingly – one of the many reasons contributing to the number of pension schemes recording a deficit (“FTSE 100 pension schemes fall to record deficit”, August 5).

I agree wholeheartedly with Bob Scott’s comment about the need for companies to work with trustees. However, I would go one step further and argue for the need for independent trustees.

Pension fund deficits have understandably caused dissent in trustee boardrooms, with member trustees arguing that a promise is a promise, and the company trustees concentrating on the cost of meeting that promise. In addition, the trustees are tasked with ensuring the funds of pension schemes are sensibly invested, but the more conservative the investments, the higher the contributions required from the company. While trustees try to manage their conflicts, it is very difficult for them to be truly objective.

It is time that all corporate pension schemes appointed more independent trustees both to safeguard the interests of members and to ensure greater transparency and confidence in the trustees’ decision-making process.

Geraldine Kaye,
GAAPS Group,
London EC3, UK

This letter was originally published in the Financial Times, 12th August 2009.

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Information Underload

The following letter was printed in the August 2008 edition of The Actuary.

Your July 2008 edition referred to the revised situation regarding work permits, making entry to the UK more difficult. It appears that, as an industry, we may soon find ourselves with a skills shortage due to inaction. If we want to avoid a serious personnel deficit over the next few years, we need to start taking note of where these staff shortages occur.

I wish to give actuaries, and the Profession in general, a more detailed update of what has been happening ‘behind the scenes’, having worked actively on this matter since the end of 2006, when the classification of the industry was officially altered.

After raising queries and complaints about this alteration, I was invited to the Home Office. Accompanied by the chief executive of the Institute of Actuaries, I met with two members of the Home Office’s Operational Policy team to discuss the situation in May 2007.

We discovered that, in order to get actuaries back on the shortage list, it would be necessary for the Financial Services Skills Council to collect robust data substantiating a shortage. It was decided that the Institute would investigate further. The chief executive of the Institute requested authority from various committees to research and collect such data, but to date there has been no significant progress.

I was contacted in June to say that a new shortage list was being compiled — again, without the inclusion of actuaries, unless they received immediate information confirming a shortage.

It is too late to change the situation this time around but in order to make a difference for the next renewal, robust data must be collated. Without evidence, the limitations will continue and so will the staff shortages.

If you are an employer experiencing a shortage – whether it be at graduate, part qualified or qualified level, please e-mail me at and I will organise a meeting of relevant parties.

Dr Geraldine Kaye
3 July 2008