September 2022 – We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our colleague Richard. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family.
Read about Richard’s actuarial career, in his own words, in his meet the team article below:
What made you want to be an actuary, Richard?
My older brother Andrew became an actuary after completing his maths degree, and as a child, I would always try and compete with him. So when he read Maths at University and then became an actuary, I decided that’s what I would do as well. We both qualified as actuaries at the same time, so I caught him up, which was always my goal.
After qualifying as an actuary, where did your career take you?
Once I graduated, I joined Bacon & Woodrow, an actuarial consultancy firm which later became part of Deloitte. Then, just before I qualified, I moved to Bristol and worked for a small insurance company called Merchant Investors, who were later taken over by Sanlam, and I worked with them for 10 years. I became actuarial manager while working there, and then Chief Actuary. Before joining Zenith, I worked for Zurich on their IFRS 17 project, which I really enjoyed. Afterwards, I knew I wanted to get involved in some more project work elsewhere. While I was researching consultancies, I came across Zenith, a growing consultancy firm, with exciting plans for ongoing growth. As soon as I got talking to Martin and Scott, I understood their vision and was really keen to join.
How has it been working in lockdown over the last two years? Is it effectively business as usual, or did you do a certain amount of work at home?
At Zurich, just before lockdown started, the company was all set up for working from home. In fact, during my last 2 years at Zurich, I was working remotely, so working from home for Zenith has been similar. The only difference now is that I can go out to the shops at lunchtime, which I couldn’t do for a while!
I presume that, until recently, you hadn’t met any of the people you’re working with?
Yes, initially when I joined that was the case, but I have to say that Zenith has been great at building a community with their employees. They set up introductory calls for all of us, and I’ve had conversations with everyone who works there. In October, we also had an away-day together. This was great as I got to meet lots of employees face-to-face.
Zenith is clearly growing rapidly, it must be an exciting business to be part of?
It’s definitely growing with both our new and existing clients, and I’m very excited about making our relationship with all of them more efficient and mutually beneficial. Plus, we’ve got lots of new and interesting projects coming up too which are looking really positive, so that’s a great part about working with Zenith.
What is your role at Zenith?
As Head of BAU services, I focus on the continual development of our actuarial outsourcing and improving process efficiency with increased analytic insights. I am also involved in various IFRS 17 implementation projects, including being actuarial lead for a newly acquired insurance company. On a day to day, my role requires problem solving to ensure we are working as effectively as possible. It’s fantastic to see the results from this and how it can bring a real benefit to our clients.
Here at Zenith, we also work collaboratively. Everyone can speak to Scott and Martin and share their ideas very easily, so that’s great. We also have daily calls which include everyone, so you get to hear about everything that’s going on in the company.
How do these daily calls work?
We have them every morning at 9:30, and the idea is just to get an overview of everything that’s going on. It’s a quick review of where everyone is with their work and an opportunity to raise any issues anyone might have, so if someone needs help with anything, they can ask. The calls are a great way to include everyone in the activities and projects going on at Zenith, which makes me feel as though I’m very involved in everything.
Is being an actuary the only career you’ve had?
After becoming Chief Actuary at Merchant Investors, I was 33, and felt as though I’d already done everything I wanted to do in actuarial work at the time, so I had a career break. I decided to go to Bible College, and for a time I was a pastor at a church. Then when my children were all grown up and off at university, I came back to actuarial work. It was very strange getting back into it when I finally returned.
Was it a full-on people role as a pastor?
Yes, I had lots of contact with members of the congregation on a regular basis, but you may be surprised to learn that my current job is quite a full-on people role as well. One of the things I do as part of my work is helping to settle in new graduates who join us, so this job isn’t all just numbers, there’s actually a lot of contact with different people involved in actuarial work.
So, a misconception maybe, that it’s a very insular role? Actuaries are sociable!
Yes, well, they’re sociable with other actuaries you could say! But, I think that in our consultancy work, it’s very much team-orientated, so even if you’re on a project on your own, you can still bounce ideas off other people, and everyone’s always there to help and encourage you, so it’s still social.
And when you’re not thinking about actuarial work and numbers, what do you do outside of work?
I like watching sports, so football, that kind of thing. In the 90’s I was a big fan of Manchester United, but less of a fan now that they’re going through a rough patch. I’d say I’m very much a ‘fair-weather’ supporter in that sense, I like to support winners. I mean, what’s the joy in supporting a team that’s losing? This season I’m supporting Chelsea as much as Manchester United, but then again, Zenith is based in Manchester so, perhaps more of a reason to support them and be a United fan I suppose!
Who would you like to see manage Manchester United, so that you can support them again?
I would like Zidane to manage them, I think that would be cool, but I’m not sure I can see him joining. To be honest, someone who can start winning things and who everyone respects as a winner I think that would be ideal.
Are there any other sports you’re interested in?
I’ll watch anything, I loved the Olympics, I enjoyed watching that. Although, as a kid growing up, my dad and I have always liked rugby, and the school I went to, King Edward’s in Bath, was a big rugby school. I’ve been to some rugby finals with Bath, but then again, they’re not winning everything now either!
So, I’m hearing, with your career as well, you largely identify with winners?
Absolutely, I think that my goal is to help Zenith grow as a business, and to help its clients as best as I can too. Why go to a second-rate consultancy firm when there’s a better one, and I want to be with the best.
Do you have any inspirational celebrity figures in your life?
Not really. I guess the competing with my brother inspired me so you could call him an inspirational figure even if it wasn’t intentional. I suppose, Alex Ferguson, with all he achieved while he was a football manager. I’ve read all his biographies and I think he’s quite inspirational.
Final question, if you could have 3 famous people round for dinner, who would you choose, and what would you cook?
I think I’d choose David and Victoria Beckham, and their children, I think that would be quite cool. To cook, I think I’d go for something simple, like chilli, because I don’t think I’d want to be faffing around in the kitchen if I had Posh and Becks sitting in the next room!