7th December 2022
The “Spotlight” series published by Bolton Associates and Actuarial Post, features Laura McMaster, the Chief Actuary of our Lloyd’s Managing Agency, Asta. The series aims to highlight the depth of female talent in the actuarial world, and the fact that more and more female actuaries are making their mark in boardrooms across our industry.
What is your current role, and how did you end up in it?
I am Chief Actuary and a Director of Asta Managing Agency. In my previous role as a consultant, I worked with Asta and was impressed by the team and the company culture. When I decided to move on for a new challenge, I used my network to seek out opportunities including meeting with the Asta Chief Actuary at the time. Really, I wanted his job, but he was starting to think about hiring a Deputy. I asked again reasonably regularly until they moved forward with the role. I got it. And two years after I joined Asta I got what I wanted and was offered his role when he was promoted to CFO.
What is the defining moment of your career to date?
Probably deciding to become an Actuary in the first place. It was slightly happenchance after I followed a friend to a Uni presentation not knowing what an Actuary was at the time. I remember two weeks in to my first role thinking “What I have done?? I am working in insurance!” Any initial concerns that it might be boring have been long dispelled and I have really enjoyed it. That has made it much easier to work hard at it and do well.
In your opinion, what prepared you best to take on your current role?
The breadth and depth of experience I gained as a consultant was particularly valuable to the role; I now work in with Syndicates of all shapes and sizes, from small mutual owned insurers to large global groups, and brand-new start-ups, to syndicates in runoff. I have also been lucky enough to work with some great actuaries over the years. I have had valuable feedback from them and learnt a lot from observing the way they approach the technical work, as well as their interactions with others.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role within this market?
My role is only possible because of the great team we have at Asta. It’s a key part of my role to recruit, develop, and retain the team to make the work we do possible. That will always remain a key challenge and is increased by the current market environment.
How does your actuarial training and background assist in your day-to-day role now?
My actuarial training is core to my role as the SMF20 holder for the Asta syndicates and that is still a large part of my time despite also being a Director of Asta. As a Director, the approach I take to building a business case is also quite analytical of cost benefit and clearly explaining the rationale to take certain actions for the success of the company.
When did you first join the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, and what advice would you give to those students looking to emulate your career path?
I first joined straight out of university as a graduate. My advice would be twofold. First, make your own success. Seek out opportunities to expand your experience, take work on from your boss, impress key stakeholders, and don’t be shy in asking for promotions and explaining why you deserve them. Second, plan ahead. Getting the Chief Actuary Practicing Certificate requires a breadth of experience over 10 years and a range over 3 out of the last 5 years. When I was on the panel to approve PCs, we occasionally saw candidates who had very significant experience but not the required breadth. So, if you want to be a chief actuary, actively plan to gain the right range of experience.
If you had your time again, what would you do, career-wise?
Hopefully this doesn’t make me boring, but I’d choose actuarial again. I’ve really enjoyed it, had some great experiences, worked with some inspiring people, and made a lot of good friends along the way.
Please share your favourite piece of trivia with our readers!
I’m not much of a trivia buff, but my 9-year-old volunteered the fact that some turtles breathe through their bottoms when I asked him for some input. Check out cloacal respiration.
If you would like to continue the conversation, get in touch with Chief Actuary, Laura McMaster at firstname.lastname@example.org
This interview was conducted by Bolton and Associates and first published in the November 2022 issue of Actuarial Post. The interview is re-produced here with their kind permission.
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