Under the Spotlight – Jefferson Gibbs (Councillor)

Councillor and Partner at KPMG, Jefferson Gibbs goes Under the Spotlight to share his most rewarding moments as an actuary and the breadth of his career over the last 27 years.

Summarise yourself in one sentence... I am a hard-working, passionate, outgoing, loyal, well-mannered kiwi who has had the good fortune of a great education, fantastic family and incredible luck.

My interesting/quirky hobbies: I have tried a bit of woodcarving. Engaging – but I seem to spend more time putting on plasters than producing works of art.

My favourite energetic pursuit… I used to run with the pinnacle being a marathon in 2008. My back won’t allow running that kind of distance anymore.  My wife and I walked the Queenstown marathon in 2017 – I would recommend it as a way to spend time with important people and stay fit.

What gets my goat….  Hmmm – way too many emails.

I’d like to be brave enough to… write a book on coaching left brained talent.

In my life I’m planning to change…the knowledge of the actuarial profession and the way it is perceived by the general public.

Not many people know this but I… started my study in the area of electrical engineering. I didn’t get “a buzz” out of that so completed a degree in pure maths.

Short description of career…I started with Watson Wyatt in New Zealand in 1991 working super, Life and little bit of GI. After studying GI in 1995 I left NZ for the UK in 1996 to pursue it. I spent 7 years in the UK working with Lloyd’s syndicates, insurers and corporate / government insurers. I came to Australia in 2002 to get closer to family and give my children a great environment to grow up in. That timed well with significant growth in the GI actuarial sector.  I love being busy.  I love the breadth of my career; the work in any given day can span from very detailed analysis to examining really big picture questions. As a profession we have a lot of value to add in the wider fields and I am heavily involved in broadening the role actuaries play for corporate and government entities outside core actuarial roles. I consider myself very lucky to have chosen this profession particularly because of the calibre of the people I meet and work with and the purpose of insurance in putting people back on their feet.

I became an actuary because…I was passionate about maths and didn’t warm to electrical engineering.

Where I studied to become an actuary and qualifications obtained… I studied through the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. Part of the decision of moving to the UK was to narrow the hurdles involved in learning by correspondence.

I am most passionate about…my family.  In a career sense it is about my clients and creating meaningful roles for those that follow to repay those that were ahead.

What I find most interesting about my current role…The breadth and the capability of the amazing people I work with – both within and without the actuarial team.

My role’s greatest challenges...the volume of email traffic up there.

My proudest career achievement to date is … Seeing colleagues I have mentored in some way go on to greater things and helping non-insurance clients to understand difficult problems are the highlights for me.

Who has been the biggest influence on my career (and why)…Teachers – at every stage in life those who teach are owed so much gratitude.

Why I’m proud to be an actuary… The talent in our profession is incredible; the bushel that hides that light sometimes seems equally significant.

The most valuable skill an actuary can possess is … listening.  But then I do talk a lot so I continue to focus on that.

If I were President of the Institute, one thing I would improve is…The general public knowledge of what actuaries do and to firmly establish the expectation that we will grow from that base, as do lawyers and accountants, into broader fields and senior roles without losing our identity as actuaries or being somehow apologetic about it.

At least once in their life, every actuary should…work overseas.

My best advice for younger actuaries… Learn to present, learn to listen and look after your reputation (and your back). Once you have done that aspire to lead.

If I could travel back in time I would… only pursue the tenders I won and notice the little things that make the difference in life.

When I retire, my legacy will be… the small ways that I have facilitated the careers and growth in others.

Actuarial capabilities I use in my current job… creating structures and using numbers, as best they allow, to solve problems and inform decisions.

Skills actuaries should enhance to become more effective in my field of work… We really need to keep pace as a profession in the emerging fields of machine learning, coding and robotics. The recruitment and training of our youngest colleagues is key to that. And then listening to what they have to say.

One of the most creative applications of actuarial capabilities that I have used in my career… For me it is more the creative ways of presenting actuarial results that I remember.  Tableau and other tools are helping the profession take that even further.

The most interesting or valuable job or project I have worked on in my career and why… As a consultant there is no single project that fits this description. Ultimately the ones that stand out have made a profound difference to the client.

How my skill set evolved over my career… In some ways the technical stuff has gone full circle from mainframe type programs to spreadsheets and now back into coded solutions. What surprised me when I was younger, but with hindsight doesn’t, is how much the skills in general management are just as important as being ‘good at maths’.

The most challenging job or project I have worked on and why? Running DFA in the early days on a bank of ten Pentium computers was fun – at that time we were testing whether theoretical applications were possible in practice. Today those things are commonplace. AI and machine learning are in some ways at the same point now and it will be interesting to see where things get to in the next 5 years.

The advice I would give aspiring actuaries to be able to do my job…Invest in management skills.  Learn to listen (and relearn it), respect everyone you meet and never be afraid to speak up or to lead.

CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.

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