Actuaries As Artists

The term actuarial science is a bit misleading. Actuarial science is part science AND part art. In fact, the science is the easy part. That is the formulas. We automate this part as much as possible. That allows you to focus on the art of being an actuary. You may not consider yourself an artist. If so, this may be a mistake of perception. I admit that I am the world’s worst drawer, painter, singer etc. Because of that, I frowned on art and never considered myself an artist. However, nothing could be further from the truth. How can actuaries become artists? We become artists when we design, create, and even solve.

Wait a minute. Isn’t “solving” the science part? After all, in the first set of actuarial exams, there is only one right answer. That does seem like science. However, the reality of being an actuary is there rarely is only one right answer. And for those who insist that we give them only one answer, usually the only guarantee we can give them is that one answer is wrong.

We need to move our perception of who we are from actuarial science to actuarial art. Perhaps you are proud of being an actuarial scientist and the idea of being labeled an actuarial artist is an insult. After all, we have been trained in all the disciplines and have mastered many formulas. But, the reality is that we are to be masters at understanding and quantifying risk. We know risk looks squarely at uncertainty. However, the result of our work is not certainty. The result of our work is to develop understanding around the uncertainty. In order to face reality, we need to face the reality that a significant, rather an essential, part of our work involves the art.

If being an artist is considered a downgrade to the perception of your career, maybe a larger perception of what is an artist is needed. Artists create, build, develop, make, perceive, reflect. A view of an artist simply is someone who draws or sings or paints or crochets is way too limiting. The benefit of this discovery is that you may appreciate more of your “hidden” gifts than you realize. In other words, if you would evaluate your work as an actuary, you probably are more of an artist than you gave yourself credit for.Why is this definition of actuaries as artists important? Do you think your company can gain market share by creating a better 10-year term insurance policy or a better whole life policy? Those products pretty much have reached their peak as far as engineering. New creative products are needed that solve real risk issues. In order to create these new products, actuaries need to understand that the art of their work is critical. That “art” includes understanding the humanity and creating new solutions to human problems.

I am interested in hearing your story as to how you have been an artist while performing actuarial work. So share your story in the comments below, it may help someone else see their potential!