L, C, A Article - Lights Camera Actuary Spotlight on James Francis


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 James Francis from Ed Broking

 What is your current role, and how did you end up in it?
 I am currently Head of Actuarial at Ed Broking having joined the group in 2018.
  
 I started my career at Deloitte, where upon qualification I looked to move in-house, eventually joining Argo Group where I served for 7 years as Head of Group Capital Modelling. I joined the broking world last year as it seemed a natural extension of my career to date; combining the variety and client facing aspects of consultancy with the commercial modelling aspects I loved as a capital modeller.
  
 What is the defining moment of your career to date?
 After seven months working for my previous employer my then boss quit. I thought I wasn’t ready to lead and build the function, but the MD backed me (hopefully not just because I was cheap!). Regardless, this gave me a lot of confidence at a relatively junior stage of my career, and I worked hard to change the way I thought about things and how I wanted to be perceived by others. This proved to be a real turning point on my route to where I am today.
  
 In your opinion, what prepared you best to take on your current role?
 I think to be a good broker, you have to understand how the carrier makes decisions. Working in-house within capital modelling gave me great exposure to executive, reinsurance and ERM committees, and with this great insight into the strategic side of the business. Understanding how to blend a modelled result with external commercial considerations is extremely useful to deliver the best results for our clients.
  
 What is the biggest challenge you face in your role within this market?
 Staying relevant. Where insurers aim to condense the supply chain we have to offer more than just the placement of risk to justify our existence as intermediaries. We aim to provide this through technological innovation; streamlining the placement to reduce frictional costs, and through superior analytics to deliver a more in depth understanding of risk.
  
 How does your actuarial training and background assist in your day-to-day role now?
 I would argue my actuarial training is very much ongoing. One of the things I love most about my current role is having the opportunity to explore; taking concepts I am familiar with and building on these to either do things more efficiently, create better visualisations or develop more predictive models. Communication in my role is key and the actuarial syllabus prepares us well for this.
  
 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?
 Joined 2007. My Advice: ask a lot of questions! Always find out the context behind any piece of work and what decisions you are helping to inform. Too many actuaries work within their defined box without oversight of the bigger picture.
  
 If you had your time again, what would you do, career-wise?
 Professional juggler
  
 Please share your favourite piece of trivia with our readers!
 As an imminently expecting first time father as part of my “essential baby reading” I recently learnt that at birth babies have 300 bones compared to 206 in a full grown adult. Also, they have no kneecaps.
  

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