Reader Response

One Actuary’s Story

Dear Editor:

Grover Edie’s IMO, “A Tale of One Actuary,” is an inspiring story of resolve and courage. He is correct that everyone faces obstacles they must overcome but incorrectly assumes the obstacles people face are not impacted by their demographics. His own story illustrates the importance of connections and representation. The 1970 U.S. Census shows only 4.5% of those identified as working in the insurance industry were African American. Furthermore, the connection in question was an actuary, a profession which the 1970 census shows as only 2% African American. Thus, the mere existence of having this connection eliminates a hurdle that others would have to climb. Even today the data shows that people who are not White have additional obstacles. The actuarial profession is only 31% female. Even today less than 2% of the membership is Black. Similarly, less than 2% is Hispanic/Latinx. These statistics alone indicate there are additional hurdles that are unseen by white males like me. He also incorrectly propagates the myth that hard work alone is a key to success. Mr. Edie worked hard to achieve his success, but hard work only counts if you are allowed to play. It is these hurdles we must address to ensure that the actuarial profession is equally available to everyone. We all agree that demographics should not be a barrier to success. But the evidence suggests otherwise. So, the question is: What are we going to do about it?”

David Terné, FCAS, MAAA

Grover Edie, AR Editor in Chief, responds:

David brings some points I’d like to address about my prior IMO.

We often speak of demographics in terms of race, gender and national origin, but height, weight and size of hometown are also demographics. Having grown up in a small Midwest town, I had never even heard of the actuarial profession until I was introduced to an actuary my senior year in college, so I was a lot older than most when I started to “play the game.”

Like race, height is an obvious demographic. The shortest U.S. president elected since 1900 was Harry Truman, who at 5’9″ was 7 inches taller than me. The average height for that cohort is just over 6 feet.  If you don’t think height matters when it comes to electability or promotability, take a look at your company’s C-suite.

The fact that my wife and I had to make choices, take risks and make sacrifices in moving across the country on multiple occasions while following my career, expresses that hard work alone is not enough to succeed. It is only one of the keys to success, I did not say otherwise. Perseverance (it took me 15 years to become an FCAS), risk taking (moved back and forth across the U.S. pursuing my career) and the support of my wife and family were also important, as well as networking (meeting the actuary while still in college). I should have included that we also prayed a lot.