Interview with Marcin Krzykowski, Milliman
1. What made you decide to become an actuary?
Both my parents studied mathematics, and I followed in their footsteps. I graduated with degrees in mathematics and IT from the University of Gdańsk, Poland in 1999. A number of insurance companies had started to set up in Poland in the 1990s, and around my fourth year of studies my father came back from a mathematics conference and told me about the profession.
For me, a career in finance seemed much more tempting than working in IT. I happened to meet an excellent mentor at university who gave me a lot of support as I chose my next steps. While still a student, I started to work at Alte Leipziger Hestia (now ERGO Hestia), where I joined the community of actuarial colleagues. I still keep in touch with these friends.
2. In which actuarial fields have you worked so far in your career and what are the main tasks in your current position?
Most of my work experience has been in life insurance. Over the years, my professional interests have evolved into P&C and high-level strategic topics, but the life business is still the closest to my heart. For approximately the first 10 years of my career, I worked at direct insurers, and then I switched to consulting.
I now oversee Milliman’s business for Eastern Europe. I live in Warsaw, but I frequently travel around the CEE region, with a focus on Romania. In fact, just after the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, I began an online course in Romanian, and I’m still studying the language. Together with my colleagues, I contribute to Milliman’s business development and ensure we do high-quality work for our clients.
3. What personal skills and professional knowledge are particularly important for you to be successful in your profession?
It goes without saying that each actuary has to possess basic skills that are defined in the educational syllabus of the profession. These days, the actuarial field is so wide-ranging that it has become practically impossible to be an expert in everything. Therefore, I believe it is important to specialize by gaining work experience in a selected field.
I believe the skill that matters most is working towards gaining a good understanding of the big picture: why we do what we do and how we communicate the results of our work to the outside world.
4. Which aspects of your job do you particularly enjoy and which aspects do you find less enjoyable?
I have a few thousand contacts in my phone book and almost a thousand on LinkedIn (and I don’t like accepting invitations from people I haven’t met in person). So clearly, I enjoy meeting and talking to people!
I am passionate about supporting people in solving complex business challenges. In fact, this is what consulting is about: innovation-led growth, development, and capitalizing on existing knowledge gained by working in other areas.
I like variety and am not a big fan of routine tasks. Of course, there are challenges in being a consulting actuary, such as occasional periods of additional workload but the benefits, such as exploring new areas and constant development, strongly outweigh these.
5. What are the main challenges facing actuaries in the future?
For many years, the actuarial profession has attracted top people, and for a number of years it has been rated a #1 profession. This has started to change recently with the rise of other professions demanding similar skills, such as data science and IT.
I sometimes see non-actuaries at actuarial professional meetings. They tend to be charmed by our cooperation and sophistication, and I have heard visitors comment that they have never seen such positive and encouraging people. I believe that we, as a profession, could do more about communicating our uniqueness and skills to the outside world, both to younger people and to employers. The effort required to become an actuary is substantial but well worth it. The profession has top-notch work ethics, social importance, and accountability, as well as fascinating career opportunities.
The other challenge for actuaries is the need to constantly update our skills in a fast-changing world. No-one could ever say that there is a shortage of new solvency and reporting standards to keep up with, and statistical and data techniques keep evolving. Luckily, unlike many professions, actuaries are required to take formal, continuing education courses. This makes it easier to cope with these challenges and to stay on top of new developments.