In this blog post, we asked Chris Sutton, Lecturer in Actuarial Science at the School of Maths since 2018, about his academic role, as well as his career as an actuary. He discussed his passion for actuarial science and explained the importance of being able to explain complex mathematical and financial concepts to a wide variety of audiences.
Can you tell us about your academic career?
This is actually my first academic role. I qualified as an actuary in 1993 having studied Actuarial Science at the University of Kent. I have had a number of roles in life assurance, banking and investment management – mostly within different parts of Barclays. During my time in finance, I became heavily involved in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment: working on the establishment of the FTSE4good Index Series in 2001, advising on the establishment of governance and risk measures for financial companies in the wake of the 2008-9 banking crisis and acting as a member of the FTSE Russell ESG Advisory group for nearly 20 years. Earlier this year, I was asked to lead the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries taskforce on Social Security looking at government initiatives in that area in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What do you like about Actuarial Science?
Actuarial Science is mathematics with multiple applications, combined with a professional approach to business. I am increasingly struck by how many of the important issues in the world today are long term in nature (e.g. climate change) but require decisions and actions now. Actuaries are trained to think long term but to build solutions for action in the present. These are skills and approaches which are surely going to become more valuable.
What is your teaching style like?
My own career as an actuary has taught me the value of being able to explain complex mathematical and financial concepts to a wide variety of audiences including those who have little technical knowledge or are less comfortable with maths. There are plenty of good mathematicians in the world but there are relatively few who can explain what they are working on to non-mathematicians. That was brought home to me when I was effectively seconded from Barclays to the Norwegian Central Bank when the country’s Government Pension Fund first invested in equities. In his Oslo office, the Governor would convert the huge fund value into an amount per citizen to remind the team for whom our quantitative models were being built. Future actuaries who leave Queen Mary will be working on behalf of insurance policyholders or pension scheme members and I try through my teaching to help our students make connections between the calculations they are learning to do and how these will impact people with no actuarial training. The best part of that is seeing students grow in confidence as weeks in a module or years in the programme go by. Hopefully, we have some fun at the same time.
Find out more about studying Actuarial Science at the School of Maths.