Paul McCarron, VP and actuary at Pramerica
Paul McCarron, VP and actuary at Pramerica

How does an actuary’s day add up?

21 Apr 2016

There are roles within the tech industry that can seem incomprehensible to outside observers. Few are more elusive than those in fintech. Paul McCarron, Pramerica, offers us a glimpse of a day in the life of a VP and actuary working at a fintech company.

Fintech Week graphic

What is your role within this company?

I’m a vice president and actuary at Pramerica, which is a technology subsidiary of US-based Prudential Financial.

There are three main aspects to my role: leading our Letterkenny-based actuarial team, working with Prudential actuaries and business leaders to establish new areas where we can provide support, and working in my specialty area of pension risk transfer.

Can you tell us about your background?

I went to St Columb’s College in Derry, then on to Queen’s University to study electronic engineering. Upon graduating, I started working toward a PhD in electronic engineering, but changed direction to the actuarial profession.

The two disciplines aren’t as different as you might think. Both have common elements of math, IT, analysis, judgement, and the skill to express complex ideas in a way that can be understood.

I moved to England in 1987 to work for a pension consultancy and qualified as an actuary in 1994. The actuarial exam process is demanding, with multiple tests, competitive candidates and relatively low pass rates. However, it’s very rewarding and certainly worth it. In fact, the US Jobs Rated Almanac rated the actuarial profession No 1 in 2015, and not for the first time.

I moved back home in 1995 and worked in Belfast for 20 years in another actuarial consultancy as their client leader for Northern Ireland.

What steps led you to this role?

Lifestyle factors, the opportunity to work for a global leader in pension risk transfer, and the range of career options Prudential offers, combined with regular travel to the US and leading our actuarial team.

There are few companies that offer all of these career and educational opportunities to individuals who live in this corner of the world.

Pramerica has achieved phenomenal growth since it was established in 2000. The company started with a small team of IT specialists and has expanded to 1,300 talented people from all around the world, working across a wide range of disciplines. We fully expect to achieve further growth, both in numbers and, more importantly, impact for Prudential.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

A typical day includes scouting for new actuarial talent, working with our US business partners, learning new things and interacting with my team and the broader Pramerica staff.

My job responsibilities include becoming familiar with the range of disciplines that Pramerica supports. We see additional areas where we can help Prudential in the coming years. Therefore, I take regular trips to the US.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

I use problem solving, communication and strategic-thinking skills each day.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

There are some good apps for longer-term planning and making sure that everything you want to get done is captured, grouped and stored. I supplement that with a paper-based summary of what I want to achieve in a particular day, again grouping those into a small number of desired results.

I find that keeping track of my time is a good control mechanism, and there are good timer apps for that.

Finally, keeping track of achievements and outcomes helps with motivation and productivity.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

There are a lot of things to learn when transitioning from the consultancy world to insurance, and that is refreshing. The opportunities involved in building an international actuarial practice in this part of the world is exciting, and leading a talented and enthusiastic group of people is rewarding.

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