In this edition, Managing Director at CommInsure, Helen Troup, discusses her upcoming speech to the Actuaries Summit in May; how actuarial training helped her career; and what’s the most interesting part of her role.
What was the last book you read…
I am in the middle of reading a tremendous book about women and working with numbers: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.
Why did you study actuarial?
Quite simply because at school I loved maths and was looking for a career that used maths. My maths teacher said I would be bored if I became a maths teacher and suggested I consider becoming an actuary. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
How has your training in actuarial studies helped you in your career?
It gave me a great foundation in how an insurance business works, particularly the financial aspects of the business. Another element that I continue to use is critical thinking or an inquisitive mindset. There was something about the course (was it reasonableness testing?) that means I am always asking my team “Does this make sense…?” and “Is everything I am reading telling me the same story?”. I know sometimes it drives my team a little crazy but it’s about ensuring the directional elements make sense, rather than just focusing on the accuracy of the numbers.
You’re a Speaker at the Actuaries Summit in May. What are your impressions of the topic “Think Differently about Customers”?
I passionately believe that every business needs to have customers at the centre of its thinking – and that applies to all parts of the business, not just customer facing staff.
Thinking differently about our customers and their expectations is an essential input into the future success of any business. I congratulate the conference organisers for having a topic focused on customers to complement the more technical topics.
What experiences will you draw on in your address, to discuss the Summit topic?
I look forward to sharing my experiences with customers both in New Zealand and Australia, ranging from the impact of the GFC on their life savings, to sharing insurance claims experiences, and my reflections on the last 12 months of managing media, regulatory and government inquiries into the life insurance industry.
What are you looking forward to about attending the Actuaries Summit?
It will be my first return to the “Summit” for over a decade – as my career moved more into general management I have lost touch with my actuarial heritage, so I hope to reconnect with colleagues and hear what is on your mind.
What advice do you have for younger actuaries looking to progress to leadership positions?
My first piece of advice to aspiring leaders is to follow your interest and remain curious and open to new ideas. In my experience, career paths seldom follow the straight lines we expect them to follow, and this is actually a good thing. Seek to acquire new skills and experiences and create new networks. Finally, step into the unknown; when unexpected opportunities present themselves, explore them and accept them.
My second piece of advice is to know yourself, your strengths and the impact of your style. I believe good leaders are very agile and adapt their style to bring out the best in the people around them.
What do you find most interesting about your current role?
The breadth and depth of the challenges and opportunities we are navigating as an industry. The complexity is something I thrive on. Insurance is essential for complete financial wellbeing and it becomes most critical in a time of people’s greatest need. I’m proud to be a part of an industry that provides that kind of peace of mind. Finally, the passion of the people I work with to deliver on the promises we make to customers everyday – I find inspiration and energy from that.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
The sheer volume of change facing the industry and prioritising activity against this. I’m presented with so many good ideas and opportunities and I sometimes find it difficult to say no to them. I just wish we could do them all.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
As a leader, I draw the greatest pride from the achievements of my teams. Whether it is responding to catastrophic weather events or creating customer-centric solutions for people dealing with very challenging periods in their lives.
It is hard to choose the proudest to date so I will call out the most recent one – I am most proud of the way my team at CommInsure has handled the environment over the last 12 months.
I’m most passionate about…
Can I have three? My family and friends, the people at CommInsure, and chocolate!
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