Under the Spotlight – Scott Reeves (Board Member)

In the second Under the Spotlight profile on new Actuaries Institute Board Members, Scott Reeves discusses his different pathway to becoming an actuary, his passion for understanding and solving client problems, and what ‘gets his goat’.

My interesting/quirky hobbies…A few years ago I gained my pilot licence to fulfil a long-held dream (OK, so I didn’t become a commercial airline pilot, but chose the actuarial pathway instead). Since then, I must admit that spending weekends on our (very small) farm has taken over my attention.

My favourite energetic pursuit…Running, particularly in flat locations like London, where there is also plenty of interesting features and lots of canals to run by. Sydney is really hilly!

What gets my goat…Only one? I would have to say the lack of willingness of governments to show leadership on key topics and bring the public along, rather than focus on making the voters keep them in power. 

I’d like to be brave enough to…Call out discrimination in all its forms at the time I see it.

Not many people know this but I…Was born on the day that Winston Churchill died. No idea what to do with this information, however.

Short description of career… Superannuation, then corporate finance, then general insurance and then reinsurance. Along the way, I mixed actuarial roles with broader management roles, which has rounded out how I think and respond.

I became an actuary because…I was doing a Mathematics & Commerce degree at UNSW, and Actuarial Studies seemed directly related.

Where I studied to become an actuary and qualifications obtained…Ah, it would have been smarter to realise much earlier that I was going to study to become an actuary and do an actuarial degree. Instead, I did it all by correspondence through the IFoA originally, and then Australia.

My proudest career achievement to date is…Helping to firstly understand, and then solve client problems. This has required the ability to gain the trust of the client whilst considering the range of potential solutions that can be brought to bear. Watching team members who have developed and highlight solutions is a wonderful outcome.

Who has been the biggest influence on my career (and why)…Peter Hodgett immediately springs to mind for his ability to communicate and demonstrate to a junior actuary (me) of the importance of knowing the details. In addition, his pivot to focus on culture was an eye-opener many years ago.

Why I’m proud to be an actuary…I’ve given this quite a bit of thought, and I have to say it is because of the tremendous brand value created by all those who have come before me. This in turn creates a responsibility on me, and each of us, to recognise the stewardship role we have in furthering and protecting this brand.

The most valuable skill an actuary can possess is …At university, I studied a subject called ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics’ run by one of the statistics professors. The point of the subject was to be aware of and avoid spurious accuracy.

At least once in their life, every actuary should…Spend time in a non-actuarial role, to experience what our customers are needing.

If I could travel back in time I would…Be a little more focused at school and select the Macquarie University path. Would have saved me many years!

When I retire, my legacy will be…I don’t really seek to leave a legacy.

One of the most creative applications of actuarial capabilities that I have used in my career…Working in consulting outside of the industry, I introduced a standard reinsurance structure to a problem that the client found very helpful.

The most interesting or valuable job or project I have worked on in my career and why…Consulting in the aviation sector was fascinating, as it gave insights into new drivers of profitability in a capital-intensive industry.

How my skillset evolved over my career…Moving away from doing it all myself, to leading teams to bring far better skills to the task at hand.

The advice I would give aspiring actuaries to be able to do my job…My present role is Head of Underwriting, and not essentially actuarial. Though it relies upon clear statistical principles, the key requirements are to deal with uncertainty, make a commitment to a transaction in view of this uncertainty, then communicate to clients and internal stakeholders.

My view about the future of the actuarial profession – in 10 years?…Highly relevant, as the convergence of an ageing population and climate change create high demand for solving complex problems in society.

If I were President of the Institute, one thing I would improve is…Immediately choose a better President!

My best advice for younger actuaries…Be prepared to balance the strength of your actuarial training with the need to communicate with your audience.

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