Actuarial careers insight: What does a Business Development actuary do?

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What does a Business Development actuary do?
In the context of an asset manager and in simple terms, business development is about winning new clients and developing mandates with existing clients.  (It is a fancy way of calling it sales!)  It involves understanding the marketplace of asset owners (e.g. pension schemes) and what investment objectives they may be working towards.  Then the right kind of investment product or solution can be brought to into the discussion to help the client reach their investment objective.  In many ways, a business developer is a conduit between the client and technical investment knowhow of the investment manager.

How does this role make use of actuarial skills? 
An important aspect of developing business is understanding the challenges facing your clients.  In the world of pension schemes and insurance companies, knowledge of how their liabilities are formed and fluctuate means you can discuss with relevance on how investment solutions can be structured.  For defined benefit pensions, this could be helping to develop a strategy to meet cashflow requirements for the scheme’s benefit payments.  Another aspect would be the innate respect for risk management (born of my actuarial training) which frames almost all discussions around investments. 

What does your typical day/week look like?
It is varied week to week, but over time there are key commonalities.  It’s fair to say about a half of my time would be involved in meetings (most often in person – prior to COVID 19) with asset owners getting updates.  The other half of my time would be working internally with my investment colleagues to develop investment strategies, respond to investment queries, marketing, replying to tenders opportunities and general office life.  It does move in cycles, where a block of engagement and meeting activity will naturally lead on to a block of time on follow up queries and tender submissions.  At times with all the meetings and the associated travel, the day can be long but it is fun catching up with clients and intellectually challenging (in a good way) on how to help with their investments. 

What do you enjoy about your role?
I’m the kind of person that enjoys meeting people, so I actually get a kick out of meeting asset owners and discussing their investment needs.  Related to that is working for an asset manager that has many different capabilities, which means I can contribute positively in most client discussions.  It is like turning up to meeting with a full tool bag and through good discussion I can bring out the right combination of solutions to help address the investment challenge.  It is really satisfying, when after many months of discussion and fine tuning, to see an investment mandate fund which will help the client meet their goals. 

What was your career path into this role?
Nothing was really planned.  I started off as an investment consultant advising pension schemes on risk budgets, asset allocation and investment manager selection.  After about 10 years, I switched into asset management where my focus was on using the investment strategies I had available (from my employer) to help pension schemes invest.  I think what has enabled my career is my enjoyment of meeting people and listening carefully to the wants and needs of my clients.  I have never felt like I was ever selling product or advice, more a case of, understanding the problem at hand and then applying or developing a solution.  In many ways, it was applying my actuarial training in a practical environment.

And what do you like to do when not working?
I’m a keen gardener and have a mini allotment at the back of my garden.  My only rule when it comes to growing things is it must be edible in some form and a little bit different.  So pink blueberries, mini watermelons and purple mange tout are in and normal carrots are out!  I find this really helps me decompress after a day in the office – watering and pottering around is good for the soul.  I’m also into strategy board games, every now and then I get together with my friends to chat and play a serious strategy game (imagine Risk on steroids) over drinks and a cheeky takeaway.

 


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