• Name: John Harney
  • Job Title: Associate Partner
  • Location: London
  • University: Dublin City
  • Degree: BSc in Financial & Actuarial Mathematics
  • Fields of Work: Pensions

Explain why you decided to pursue a career in this profession.

When I was at school, I really enjoyed subjects based around business studies and maths, so becoming an actuary was a great way of combining these two.

During my university studies, I became more interested in consultancy as a career path. It combines my passion for problem-solving with communication and relationship-building.

Working as a pensions actuary was a natural next step. Working to provide people with good levels of retirement provision is something I am passionate about and feel can make a huge difference to society. It is a pleasure to be involved with this work in what is a tremendously collaborative and friendly industry.

Give a bit of background on your qualifications and the training that you have completed.

After studying my degree, I worked my way through the actuarial exams. I also took some time out of the industry and studied philosophy, which has also helped with further improving my critical thinking and communication skills.

I also took part in my employers’ graduate training programmes, as well as ongoing training as part of Continuous Professional Development.

Explain what your current role involves

I am fortunate to have a lot of variety in my current role.

I advise companies who provide or previously provided pensions to their employees in a particular form called defined benefit provision. This means that their pension is calculated based on how long they worked at the company and their final salary. My advice involves calculations, modelling and interpretation of these to guide decision-making and strategy. There are many assumptions underlying this work (like how long people might live, what rates of inflation will be experienced in the long run and how we expect the investment portfolios funding the benefits to perform, again in the long term). Marrying this analysis with my clients’ objectives, real-world experience and macro-economic forces is challenging and fun!

I also advise schemes on managing cyber risk and increasing their cyber resilience. This is a growing area as pension schemes rely more and more on technology for their operations and interaction with members.

Some of my work is project-based, which means I can help with implementation and means I see the results of my work in real time, which is really satisfying.

Aside from this, I speak regularly on webinars and at industry conferences, as well as my involvement with mentoring colleagues and wider industry.

At the time of writing, I am fortunate to have just been promoted, so this goes to show that things are always changing and evolving – nothing stands still.

Future Plans

Keep going and embrace all the opportunities I create.

I enjoy the challenge of helping people solve problems. As I become more experienced, I realise how the detailed technical modelling I work on is really important, but not the only final answer for my clients. The world is a complex place, and analysis and modelling is one tool for them to use to make the best decisions. I am excited to continue to work with clients to optimise these decisions and provide the best possible benefits to their employees in retirement.

Creating opportunities is crucial too. In this complex world where clients have so many options about how best to chart the way forward, I look forward to continuing to work to innovate the solutions I bring to clients (using actuarial techniques), as well as strengthening trusted relationships.

Business and mathematical modelling go hand in hand in an actuarial career, so I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes me.

Any advice

Look “up” and look “around”.

Look “up” at people who have more experience than you in your industry and profession. What has resulted in their success that you can take on board? You can be you and still take on learnings from others.

Look “around” at your peers. Are they doing things differently to you and can you learn from them? Chances are, you can, so never stop absorbing knowledge from others.

The bonus is that doing this, I find, makes everything more fun!

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