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How to become an actuarial leader

Alden Skar is Chief Actuary and Senior Vice president for RGA’s U.S. Group Reinsurance Division. In our interview, he talks about his career starting as a student and leading to an actuarial executive – including tips for anyone with similar ambitions
Written on 07/29/21

What is your position at RGA? 

I am Chief Actuary and Senior Vice President for RGA’s U.S. Group Reinsurance Division.

What is your professional background? How did you come to this position?

My background is diverse – with past roles in pricing, valuation, numerous products, direct insurance, consulting, and now reinsurance. That diverse background has given me unique perspectives for problem solving. I would likewise advise other actuaries to embrace opportunities to work in a variety of roles.

What are the main tasks you do in your daily work?

I oversee pricing and product development functions for my division. I am also responsible for developing management reporting tools to provide deeper insight into what is working well in our portfolio, and what might need more attention. I also have a role in risk management for our division.

What makes an actuary’s job exciting? What makes your job special?

The skills that come naturally to most actuaries are the technical skills – applying mathematics, statistics, and technology. Since actuaries use exactly those skills, that was very appealing to me when I was considering career options. However, the skills that distinguish actuarial leaders are the softer skills – people skills, effective writing, thoughtful presentations. The most fulfilling projects I work on are those where I “marry up” the two – for example, applying technical skills to develop a persuasive presentation for a client, while keeping mindful of the background of the audience.

What tips do you have for graduates on their way into professional life?

I made the mistake of focusing too much on my coursework, and not enough on planning my first job after graduation. I was extremely fortunate that I had terrific professors who had my back, steering me toward an actuarial career despite my lack of preparation. My advice would be to carve out time during years 1 and 2 of college to develop a plan for your first job, whatever career you consider.

What are your favorite things to do outside of your day-to-day career? 

Sports, sports, sports. When I was in school I played every sport I could. When my kids were in school, I coached every sport they played. Now I ski and run to keep active. Oh, and during the past COVID year, I played my guitar more than ever before.