Liz Prior, Managing Director of Hiscox Guernsey talks about her career and how her actuarial background has equipped her for her role today.
Where did you start your career?
After studying MORSE (Maths & Operational Research & Statistics & Economics) at university, I joined the actuarial graduate scheme at a management consultancy, working within General Insurance. About six years later, I decided to move in-house.
I knew that insurance was where I wanted to be. Risk is constantly changing which makes the work you do as an actuary extremely interesting. I’d been lucky to have had exposure to a range of companies during my time in consultancy and Hiscox stood out to me as a company that was known for being great at what it did.
Tell us about your career at Hiscox so far...
I joined the Reserving team at Hiscox as a senior manager and progressed to Head of Reserving. These roles gave me an overview of the whole organisation and a real understanding of the different types of business that we write. The Reserving team is critical to business performance – impacting profit, in that the more we reserve, the less profit we have, as well as performance of individual business lines and ensuring we are on a sound financial footing.
In my next role, I wanted to try something a bit different, working in one of our business units. When the CFO role in our Special Risks team came up, I put myself forward. I loved this role – there was lots to challenge me personally on the finance side, but also as part of a leadership team, getting involved in the whole business. I really felt like I was making a difference and driving the future and strategy of the business.
Then came my latest career leap - from Chief Financial Officer to MD of Hiscox Guernsey. What really attracted me to this was the opportunity to lead a business and steer my own ship. While it was another step outside of my comfort zone, I had support from the senior management team and I felt ready for it and really excited about the opportunity.
I really enjoy working at Hiscox. We employ really good people and then trust and empower them to make decisions and have an impact on the business. We’re big enough to provide wide ranging and interesting work, but small enough for individuals to have an impact on the success of the company. People here really care about what they do and are passionate about making a difference.
What skills did you develop as an actuary that you are using in your current role as MD?
In a world where we have ever more data, the challenge for all of us is to work out what that data is telling us. My actuarial training helps me to cut through the data and be able to focus on what matters, and knowing what the right questions are to ask. Understanding what data can do for you is incredibly useful.
I also learned early on the importance of presenting what you do in the right way. If you can’t explain what you’ve done in a way that people can digest, understand and buy into, your work will never have an impact. Being able to communicate to both technical and non-technical audiences is crucial.
What advice would you give to people starting their actuarial careers?
Don’t underestimate the personal commitment needed to complete the actuarial exams – it is tough to combine work and study and you need to be prepared for that and willing to throw yourself into it. Get exposure to as many different types of actuarial work as you can early on in your career – this will really help you later on. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks! It can be scary to step outside of your comfort zone, but you’re much more likely to have a more fulfilling career if you do.
Liz Prior talks about her career and how her actuarial background has equipped her for her role today.