Actuarial excellence – 4 tips I learned from Lee Ping

Excellence is the goal for all professions. Because trust is such a key component for actuaries, excellence has additional importance. A lot could be written about how to pursue actuarial excellence. However, a more interesting strategy is sharing actuarial excellence as it’s observed. I have had the benefit of learning from many actuaries, many have excellent characteristics. I believe all my staff have their own area of excellence. This is a special week for me because it is the last week one staff member, Lee Ping will be working from our Iowa office.

Lee Ping graduated fairly recently (2013) from Drake and has been working with us about 2.5 years. Yet, even at a young
age, she has demonstrated actuarial excellence beyond her years. What are some examples? Here are 4 I have noticed:

Focus on the details

One of Lee Ping’s main responsibilities is to assist me creating actuarial education videos. Basically, I write the content 20150701_StaffPortraits_21and Lee Ping determines the best way to present it. This is a common division of labor in our company. One person authors content. The other presents it. Certainly good communication is needed between the two. Most content authors provide detailed instruction to the presenters. I provide few details to Lee Ping. Basically, I provide her “the message” and she figures out how to best present. This requires thinking through many details. Having actuarial staff that focuses on the details is a tremendous benefit to the company. Most actuaries start with technical work. So, it’s critical to think through the details. Clearly, you want to keep the big picture in mind. But, often the difference is in the details.

Be a trusted source

This point cannot be emphasized too much. Inconsistent performance is a recipe for job failure. If there is one thing supervisors need is to be able to trust the person they delegate work. Trust does not equate to perfection. Nobody is perfect and expecting perfection has its own dark side. But, being trusted is attainable … and an absolute must. To be trusted, pursue consistency. Time and again Lee Ping has proven herself trustworthy in the details.

A team player with focus

A team player is motivated by team results. Individual recognition is drowned by the significance of team accomplishment. Like all team endeavors, it’s critical to identify what constitutes “winning” and “losing”. For online actuarial education, “winning” occurs when students learn. “Losing”, of course, is students not learning. All of Lee Ping’s efforts are focused on improving student’s learning. Any feedback she gives me is focused on ways improving the student learning experience. That is her sole focus.

Quality control

Quite simply, quality control requires reviewing your own work. Lee Ping is now writing our manual on video creation. In the manual, she states that you must review your work at least twice before submitting. Our work is similar to building a car. Finding errors sooner rather than later is much more efficient. Your actuarial career may not be creating actuarial educational videos. Perhaps it is creating actuarial models using software. Data entry errors undetected can have major consequences the longer they are undetected. Find strategic and efficient techniques to review your work for reasonableness.

Passing actuarial exams requires learning complicated concepts and formulas. These 4 techniques are simple to understand in comparison. But, understanding is not sufficient. Mastering in practice is what determines passing or failing. You may not know Lee Ping and can’t use her as a model for excellence. But, chances are you know other actuaries who are excellent. Look for these 4 qualities and put them into practice.

Thanks Lee Ping for your excellence. You have taught me much!