Fostering Innovation and Growing Skills

Being a great actuary means having a well-rounded skill set

Photograph: Hyon Smith

As members of the Society of Actuaries (SOA), each of us has regular opportunities for professional development, be it in-person events, webcasts or via resources from professional interest sections. We are constantly learning from and adapting to the world around us. We innovate by moving forward, staying curious and enhancing our skills.

This topic reminds me of an article I wrote a few years ago about sharpening our skills. In that article, I compared the skills and qualities of both Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek television series. Mr. Spock served as an example of high intelligence and the ability to solve complex problems—qualities we see and value in actuaries. However, technical competence is not enough. Much like Captain Kirk, to be effective as leaders, actuaries also need to be passionate, decisive, innovative and visionary. The best actuaries are able to combine both technical competence and soft skills in appropriate measure.


  • The website Apps for Actuaries provides a variety of mobile applications, from actuarial focused to others focused on business, travel and more.
  • The Tools for Actuaries website serves as a broad resource for tools and books, including on communication, strategy, leadership and other subject matter.
  • Take the opportunity to join (or renew) membership with one or more professional interest sections. Tap into the technical knowledge and insights from section events, newsletters and other resources available.
  • There are always new opportunities available for volunteering with the SOA. Search by type, time commitment and/or qualification level.

Here are some of the skills and approaches to consider in being the best you can be as an actuary.

  • Build upon both your writing and speaking skills, as they help round out overall technical abilities. We know the data well and therefore have an opportunity to communicate it clearly, both in presentations and on paper.
  • Keep up with emerging trends to remain knowledgeable and relevant. We are expected to know our key audiences within society and how they interact and are affected by the changing world. For example, younger generations have evolving perspectives and needs in terms of insurance based on their habits, technology advancements and more.
  • Get the most out of your time when traveling, such as while you’re at the airport or in the air. Read or purchase books or online resources so you can brush up on your business skills, learn about new approaches, gain thought leadership insights and much more. If you like going for walks, consider listening to recorded seminars or podcasts to broaden your perspectives.
  • Innovate through experiencing, exploring and interacting with others. Technological advances are constantly challenging and shaping our world. Think about how advances such as self-driving cars, smartphones, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technology, cyber risk and the Internet of Things (IoT) may affect your practice and what risks and opportunities may emerge.
  • Enhance your potential by gaining or building upon your communication and presentation abilities. Be able to explain in layperson’s terms not only what you do as an actuary, but also the relevancy and impact of your work. Actuaries need to be seen not just as problem solvers, but also as effective communicators. Small changes, such as reviewing an email from the perspective of the recipient, can highlight areas where clarity of communication needs to be improved.
  • Increase your skills and your level of engagement with the SOA. You can improve your professional development, tap into available research, connect with your peers, join sections, mentor colleagues at work, speak at meetings and more. Increasing your level of engagement advances your skills, gains new experiences and improves your leadership qualities.

As actuaries, we need to continue looking to the future to help ourselves and those we serve. Let’s sharpen our actuarial skills and at the same time enhance our business acumen and communication skills. Let’s prove the relevance of our credentials and make a difference.

Mike Lombardi, FSA, CERA, FCIA, MAAA, is president of the Society of Actuaries. Follow him on LinkedIn: