Meet Elaine Collins: One of the Newest Council Members at the Actuaries Institute

With a decade of experience spanning traditional roles, Elaine’s passion lies in advocating for a wider, deeper and more interpretative approach for the future of the profession.

For those who don’t know you, could you share a bit about yourself? 

I started my career at Tillinghast, a global actuarial consulting firm, which was a wonderful training ground. They called themselves “a colony of artists”, which is not the usual description of actuaries!  But I was lucky to work with stellar actuaries very early on.

During my subsequent time at KPMG and Deloitte, I carried out Appointed Actuary roles in Australia and Singapore over 10 years, after helping develop professional standards for the role as part of an Institute working group. From one side of the boardroom table, presenting financial condition reports to Boards, I moved to the other side in 2012, taking on Non-Executive Directorships for several organisations over the years.

Currently, I have four Directorships, working with esteemed fellow Directors and admired academic colleagues, as a Professor of Practice at the UNSW Business School.

What motivated you to serve as a Council Member of the Actuaries Institute?

I wanted to serve on Council to contribute to my profession and progress the Institute’s strategic priorities, using my 10+ years Appointed Actuary expertise, 10+ years in Non-Executive Director roles and my 5+ years as a UNSW Professor of Practice.

I am passionate about advancing the brand of actuary and helping grow the view of actuaries interpreting results as ‘data storytellers’.

With advances in technology, new industries are now realising the value of their intangible assets, particularly their data and are interested in the story their data is telling them. 

How do you see the profession evolving over time? Are there any specific areas you believe need more focus or improvement?

Traditional actuarial roles in insurance, superannuation and banking have historically been key to providing insights and that hasn’t changed.

We are still mathematicians at the ‘pointy end’, but we need to hone our contributions to deliver insights to a more diverse and sometimes non-mathematical audience. This often requires us to develop different skills to explain our findings in an understandable way that non-technical audience members can remember.

In today’s world, it is also important to focus not only on profitability, but be aware of impacts to the triple bottom line: profit, people, planet.

What should all actuaries do at least once in their life? 

I know this may sound like something you have heard before, but being a member of an Institute Committee is very valuable practice for career success. As each meeting holds an agenda, there are various topics to be discussed, causes to support and influence, and you are surrounded by intelligent people, who hold diverse views.

Sometimes, I’ll attend a meeting initially holding a definite view. Yet by the end of the meeting, I’ve been persuaded to change it, highlighting just how valuable these discussions can be.

What advice would you give to aspiring actuaries? 

My best piece of career advice is to work with great people who inspire you along the way.

Don’t agonise about which direction to choose – if you see an opportunity to work with great people, take it! Working with talented people teaches you valuable lessons and, amazingly, a successful career seems to follow. It’s definitely true that you don’t know the value of an experience until much later when you use the skills you’ve learned in a different capacity.

When you retire, what would you like your legacy to be?

Data storytelling is the process of transforming data analyses into an understandable storyline for a wider audience to influence the decisions of politicians, business leaders and the community. I would like the actuarial profession to be known as the best for interpreting data analyses to explain the story that data is telling us. 

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