Lifestyle Article - Lights Camera Actuary Spotlight on Shauna McGrath

The next focus for Bolton Associates’ Spotlight page, is an interview with a leading actuary within one of the top three Global Broking Houses. With the broking firms now offering important analytical, actuarial and deal-assisting advice, for the next few months Zoe Bolton will be talking to the senior actuaries in these firms, getting a brief insight into their career paths and visions for the future. This month Zoe talks to Shauna McGrath from Willis Re

 What is your current role, and how did you end up in it?
 I currently work at Willis Re in EMEA W/S, leading the Actuarial and the Customised Solutions teams. I run and coordinate our actuarial department, and on the broking side, I create and transact strategic reinsurance solutions. I have client responsibility as part of my role; this client management experience enables me to create initiatives to enhance our offering in analytics and customised solutions.
 Prior to joining Willis Re I worked as a capital actuary at Faraday, a Lloyd’s syndicate. This gave me a deep understanding of the key risks underlying an insurance provider and how this translates to reinsurance and capital management.
 What is the defining moment of your career to date?
 The defining moment was taking a risk and moving into a non-actuarial role. Leaving my comfort zone was certainly daunting at first, but I was eager to take on a fresh challenge and move into a client-facing role. Broking has been the perfect fit as I still utilise my actuarial skillset, just in a non-traditional way.
 In your opinion, what prepared you best to take on your current role?
 My experience in risk and capital has put me in good stead for my current role. It gives me a deeper appreciation for the insurer’s position, which in turn allows me to advise my clients about their risk and capital considerations relative to their reinsurance strategy.
 What is the biggest challenge you face in your role within this market?
 Communicating complex ideas in a simple and effective way is often challenging, but is a crucial skill in a broking house. The biggest challenge is not only refining this skill as an individual, but developing it in others, creating a culture where this is the norm.
 How does your actuarial training and background assist in your day-to-day role now?
 In a broking capacity, it is important to fully understand the client and their key requirements. My actuarial background gives me the ability to analyse the technical information and financials of a company and use my problem solving skillset to best help our clients with their reinsurance decisions.
 When did you first join the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, and what advice would you give to those students looking to emulate your career path?
 I first joined the IFoA in 2009. My advice to all students would be to take advantage of any opportunity to get out of your comfort zone; it will always pay off! Also, no matter how busy you are with work and study, make time for events and networking. Both the talks and the socials give you access to a breadth of information and ideas, and the opportunity to meet some of the industry’s legends!
 If you had your time again, what would you do, career-wise?
 In all honesty, I have always quite liked the idea of a career in medicine, and surgery in particular – though this may solely be based on my love of Grey’s Anatomy!
 Please share your favourite piece of trivia with our readers!
 High-heeled shoes were originally made for men!

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