13 December 2021

Companies need to evaluate the way they assess talent to ensure it supports hiring diverse candidates.

In part two of our interview with Stafford Thompson, Jr., focusing on diversifying the actuarial field, Stafford shares his thoughts on the progress being made and what companies can do to further the efforts, and provides career advice for Black actuaries – from those who are still students to established professionals.

At the end of September, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) announced that John Robinson, FSA, MAAA, FCA, will become the first Black SOA president. What does that mean to you as a founding member of IABA and to the profession?

I am proud that John has been elected as president-elect of the SOA. John is a former president of IABA and a former board member of the SOA. As a result, John has strong knowledge of the position to which he has been elected and strong experience when it comes to leading actuaries. John was elected for his skill, his visibility and his commitment. He will not be the last Black actuary to demonstrate those traits and must not be the last Black actuary to hold this position to truly embrace and elevate diversity. But John also serves as an example to Black actuaries that shows we must not linger in the shadows of the profession. If we want real change, we have to be visible, vocal and visionary to ensure John’s election is a spark for change instead of a footnote in history.

What can companies do to continue building on the progress we’ve made so far in diversifying the actuarial field?

To help drive interest in the profession during the formative education years, companies can offer students scholarships and internships, as well as provide resources to help students pass exams. They can also support organizations like IABA and the Organization of Latino Actuaries that are working hard to identify students to elevate into this profession.

To bring actuaries into the field, companies need to evaluate the way they assess talent to ensure it supports hiring diverse candidates. That includes reviewing job descriptions to make sure they are inclusive. It also includes taking into account transferrable skill sets or experiences if a candidate has the potential to pass exams, recognizing that not all candidates have had the same academic opportunities or financial means to pursue actuarial exams.

Lastly, companies need to be bold and have accountability when it comes to meeting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion objectives, establishing quantifiable goals just as they would for any other business metric (such as sales and earnings plans).

What advice would you give to:

  1. Black students considering the actuarial profession?

Know this is a career you can be excited about. Find ways to get exposure to the career and learn about what actuaries do, whether that’s through internships or attending IABA meetings where you’ll have the opportunity to connect with like-minded people and potential employers.

  1. Black actuaries just entering the field?

Surround yourself with a support system - exams are tough. Also, find a mentor who can help you navigate a corporate environment which is often foreign to underrepresented minorities and Black actuaries. And look for a company that values what you bring to the table - finding the right cultural fit is key for you to grow and learn.

  1. Established Black actuaries looking to advance in the field?

Map out what you want your post-exam career to look like and identify those you’d like to model your career after. Here, I strongly recommend having a mentor.

You should also look to establish sponsors in the organization - those who will stand up for you when it’s time for career advancement. But sponsors are only helpful if you’re vocal and visible. Raise your hand, make your goals known and demonstrate the value you’re bringing to the organization. Don’t just expect that if you do the work, someone is going to notice you and tap you on the shoulder for that promotion.

Lastly, never stop networking.