Suggesting an Actuary Appreciation Day

December 28, 2011 Insurance Topics 3
While writing an article for the Academy of Actuaries the other day, I saw the wind whip the leaves around outside and it reminded me of my marching band days in high school. As a freshman clarinetist, I was the unexpected recipient of a hug on “Hug a Band Member Day.”
My thoughts turned back to actuaries. I smiled at the idea of a “Hug an Actuary Day.” But since even a handshake can be sometimes considered sexual harassment these days, I propose there at least be an Actuary Appreciation Day.
In fact, I’m making today my personal Actuary Appreciation Day. I want to express my appreciation for the actuaries who have supported me professionally and personally. Really, how can you not be blessed by a profession that attracts such intelligent and highly-principled people?
The actuarial mind is a mystery. Having enjoyed the opportunity to work as a layperson with actuaries, or “translator” as I affectionately call myself, I can honestly say that the profession that drives forward by looking in the rearview mirror is full of the most forward-thinking possibilities. (See my article on the future of the actuarial profession)
To the general public and even the business community, the actuary is misunderstood. The best actuarial minds are not as linear as their mathematics and statistical backgrounds imply. Their brilliance is not to be found in number crunching or ranges of probability.
Actuaries possess that rare combination of right- and left-brain qualities that allow them to see possibilities from other angles (or should I say, “Triangles?”) They are creative. They see new worlds of risk and reward, finding paradigms in statistics that anticipate new ways to consider future events and how to cover for them.
Before naming my favorite actuaries, I should be clear that I do not see the profession through a rose-colored rearview mirror: I have known a thankfully small few who do respect numbers more than human beings. But they pale in significance to the stars of the profession.
I have worked with several wonderful actuaries. Twenty years ago, Paul Whittaker, then the actuarial director of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, first explained actuarial concepts so I could “translate” them into everyday English.
They see new worlds of risk and reward,
finding paradigms in statistics that anticipate new ways
to consider future events and how to cover for them.
Later, as the lead reporter for BNA’s Workers’ Compensation Report, I often quoted actuarial maverick Richard Hofmann, who risked his reputation and business to encourage the public availability of workers’ compensation data. Rich moved my career even closer to actuaries when he asked me to work for him part-time, just minutes after I quit my full-time reporting job to be a stay-at-home mom.
Rich later introduced me to Claus Metzner, who in turn introduced me to Steve Lehmann. Claus and Steve, who are among the field’s best gentlemen, encouraged my creativity and supported my career growth. I thoroughly enjoyed the years I worked with Steve, who is the former president of the Casualty Actuary Society and the American Academy of Actuaries and now serves the profession as the general secretary of the International Association of Actuaries.
Finally, I tip my hat to Barry Llewellyn of the National Council on  Compensation Insurance, Inc. Professionally I had known him for years, but when I was working with him on a project, my nearly-four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. His support touched my heart.
These are just a few of the actuaries who have made a lasting impression on me.
So whether your premiums go up or down, I say, thank an actuary!