What is the career progression like for an actuary? Peter Maddern from Canada Life tells us how he went from a graduate to Head of Customer Proposition.
I joined Canada Life 13 years ago on the Actuarial Graduate programme and since then have been given a number of different opportunities to develop and take on increasing levels of seniority. The highlight of this was being accepted onto the Accelerated Leadership programme in late 2010, which allowed me to continue to rotate around the business and work on strategic areas of focus for the company.
Today I work as Head of Customer Propositions for our Individual Onshore business. This means I look after the products and product development for the area (which includes our annuities, pensions and onshore bond products), ensuring that our current and planned products meet the needs of our customers. I work closely with a number of other areas in the company including Sales, Marketing, IT, Investments, Customer Services, Pricing as well as the Corporate departments, making sure our efforts are coordinated and all have an input into our product plans.
Why did you choose a career in the industry?
I had always been good at maths and statistics at school, gaining good grades in GCSEs and A-levels in these subjects. I particularly enjoyed the parts where the application of these skills could be put into real world settings. At school I had the opportunity to do 2 weeks of work experience at Friends Provident (an insurer which merged with Aviva), which was the first time I had come across an actuary and it sounded like something worth pursuing. Actuarial work within insurance was a great way of applying what I was good at to the real world.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It sounds cheesy but I would have to say the people I work with. In my role as Head of Customer Proposition at Canada Life, I have to rely on others from across the company to ensure we can be successful, and luckily everyone at Canada Life is really friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you if you have a problem. This attitude then ripples throughout the organisation to make it a really pleasant place to work. I have worked across a number of departments during my time at Canada Life and this friendliness/willingness to pitch in has been evident across all teams.
I also enjoy the variety of challenges that we face as a company. Now is a busy time in the industry, with changing demographics and the 2014 pension freedoms rules introduced by the government significantly changing how customers interact with their insurer at retirement and what they expect from their insurer. Being in the team responsible for leading us through these changes brings various challenges but is consequently very rewarding.
Have you achieved any professional qualifications?
Yes I qualified as an actuary in 2010. I received excellent support whilst at Canada Life to help me in achieving this qualification, with a genuine focus on work/life balance meaning I had time to study especially when exams came around.
What is a ‘typical’ day like for you?
Each day can vary, and I may end up needing to be in a different office (e.g. London/Worthing). However, typical features of days include:
- Workshops for product development ideas (often in a workshop setting with a variety of different team representatives)
- Producing longer term product plans, to fit into the wider company strategy
- Planning specific product developments, making sure it is clear who needs to be involved and what their roles/responsibilities within the project will be
- Reading the latest piece of customer/adviser research we have done
- Checking the various industry headlines for a few minutes to make sure I am up to speed with any developments in the industry and any evolving customer needs
- Participating in workshops with IT to provide requirements for our product developments
- Reviewing the written requirements produced to ensure these are correct, clear and understood
- Working on a presentation for a specific product feature we are considering for executive steering committees
- Keeping on top of my email inbox. For example – making sure the sales team understand what we need from them for a business case we are pulling together, or that the right people are attending a product workshop we have in a few days’ time.
- I also manage a small team, so some time is spent ensuring they are clear what is needed, that they have development plans in place, and general management items such as reviewing expense claims!