Under the Spotlight – Simon Guthrie
Read about Simon Guthrie’s colourful career as he moved from non-traditional actuarial work in industry to academia,where he is now a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University. He shares his personal thoughts including some useful insights for the next generation of actuaries.

 

Summarise yourself in one sentence…Faithful husband, father, actuary, teacher.

My interesting/quirky hobbies… I like to acquire new DIY skills, like roasting my own coffee beans and DIY plumbing (not necessarily recommended). I also do the Sydney Morning Herald cryptic crossword every Friday.

My favourite energetic pursuit…Is golf energetic? If not, then running.

What gets my goat… Selfishness

I’d like to be brave enough to… Start the next great actuarial firm.

In my life I’m planning to change… The world. Incrementally.

Not many people know this but I… Have an annoying habit of taking things my family say and turning them into songs.

Simon with his family

 

Short description of career… I began as a wide-eyed, innocent consultant at PwC where I was lucky enough to be exposed to a variety of general insurance and accident compensation schemes. I was a part of the fledgling health/disability actuarial practice under John Walsh. I was then able to ride the wave of the NDIS, from consulting to State governments on disability funding and then NDIS transition, to ultimately joining the newly established NDIA as a member of the actuarial team. Then, six months ago, a big career shift to academia. Now I help teach the next generation of actuaries and continue research into disability and other social policy. I reckon actuaries can play a big role in making the world a better place.

I became an actuary because… I wanted a career with a mix of deep technical expertise and commercial application.

Where I studied to become an actuary and qualifications obtained… Macquarie University. BCom-ActSt, BAppFin, FIAA

I am most passionate about… My family

What I find most interesting about my current role… It was interesting to come back to university and reflect on how the things I learned all those years ago during my Part I studies have been useful (or not…) throughout my career. Who knows what exciting things my current students will get up to over their careers?

My role’s greatest challenges… Marking…

My proudest career achievement to date is … I love seeing those I have worked with, coached or mentored through exams doing amazing things and achieving success. Seeing an impact beyond my own meagre achievements is what makes me proud.

10 years from now, I will be … The father of two teenage girls.

Who has been the biggest influence on my career (and why)… Sarah Johnson and John Walsh. Both have opened the door for my career to proceed in a direction I couldn’t have foreseen in the beginning.

Why I’m proud to be an actuary… Actuaries simultaneously have a long and proud history rooted in timeless mathematics whilst also being at the forefront of new computational and data technologies. We have been entrusted with ensuring the financial security of some of our largest institutions and we are tasked to provide certainty for people who may be at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives. What’s not to love?

The most valuable skill an actuary can possess is … Empathy.

If I were President of the Institute, one thing I would improve is… the engagement of members in the running of our profession.

At least once in their life, every actuary should… Help solve a business problem outside of their area of expertise.

My best advice for younger actuaries… Never stop learning.

If I could travel back in time I would… do so very carefully. It sounds like a risky undertaking!

When I retire, my legacy will be… for others to determine

Actuarial capabilities I use in my current job… Coming back to university to teach has meant that I have needed to return to the technical basics of my actuarial education, including some maths that had fallen out the back of my brain. But I also rely on the softer skills and actuarial judgement that I have developed over my career.

Skills actuaries should enhance to become more effective in my field of work… Communication, compassion and collaboration.

One of the most creative applications of actuarial capabilities that I have used in my career… Is hopefully about to be realised as I commence my PhD

The most interesting or valuable job or project I have worked on in my career and why… Definitely everything that has contributed to the establishment and implementation of the NDIS.

How my skill set evolved over my career… The biggest skill I have developed (am still developing) is knowing how best to manage and prioritise my time and projects to get the best out of myself. A skill that doesn’t stop at the office door – it is required across all areas of life.

The most challenging job or project I have worked on and why? Probably transition from State disability systems to the NDIS. Lots of stakeholders, lots of terrible data, lots of public scrutiny and a lot of change for individuals with a disability and their families

The advice I would give aspiring actuaries to be able to do my job… Be yourself.

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