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Wednesday, 12th August 2020
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A Dublin base does not limit opportunities Back  
The key to being a successful actuary is having a good head for numbers and being able to explain tricky things simply, writes Brian Griffin, senior investment consultant with Mercer, who enjoys the variety of a job as an actuary.
What is your educational background?
I spent three years in UCD completing a B Sc degree in Mathematical Science. I then battled through the actuarial exams over the following six years qualifying as a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in Ireland in 1994.

What has been your career path to date?
I have had quite a varied career to date. I spent nine years in total in Irish Life plc. My time there included a number of years in the investment management area where I worked on the treasury and money market team managing the FX and interest rate exposures of the various portfolios. I also worked in the product development and pricing area for Irish Life Assurance and finished with a spell as actuary to Irish Life International, the IFSC subsidiary.

After a year and a half wandering the world I joined Bank of Ireland Asset Management where I was involved in establishing the index tracking capability. I then spent a couple of years working in the structured product and derivatives area within Bank of Ireland Global Markets.

I joined Mercer Investment Consulting in 2005. My role in Mercer involves advising pension funds and other institutions on investment strategy issues.

Are your peers from similar backgrounds?
Most of my colleagues and peers either come from actuarial or fund management background. I suppose I am fortunate that I have experience of both €‘ along with some investment banking thrown in also.

Have you worked abroad? If so where and what did you do? Would you do so again?
I worked with Bank of Ireland Global Markets in the UK for a year structuring derivative and swap transactions for the bank€s customers. I would definitely consider working overseas again although I only have 49p.c. of the vote these days so it is probably not going to happen!

How would you compare career prospects internationally to those in Ireland?
There are excellent career opportunities in Ireland. Within the Mercer Investment Consulting team we are becoming increasingly involved in pan-European projects. Being based in Dublin does not narrow our opportunities.

Have you undertaken any additional professional training since assuming your current role?
Other than some internal training courses, the answer is no. And do I plan to? No. Six years studying at night was difficult enough.

What skills/aptitude would you identify as being key/beneficial to a career in your sector?
You need to have a good head for numbers and be able to explain tricky things simply. The former is something I think I have and the latter is something that I am still trying to acquire.

What aspects of the job do you like most?
The job provides great opportunity to get out and meet people €‘ this is something that is quite different from previous roles I have had and is an aspect that I really enjoy. I also like the variety - although some of the themes repeat themselves, no two clients are faced with the same set of circumstances. I also take satisfaction from applying experiences and knowledge gained in my previous roles in the investment consulting arena.

What aspects of the job do you like least?
Adapting to the nuts and bolts of being a consultant, such as keeping track of time on timesheets and negotiating on fees. In my previous jobs I never had to deal with these issues. Now it is part and parcel of everyday life and even after a year and a half I am still not used to it.

How do you define success in your sector?
Happy clients.

Is there anyone in particular you admire in your industry?
There are aspects of many people that I admire and have tried to emulate. I would be reluctant to mention names though.

What advice would you give to others who might like a career in your sector?
For a start, I€d highly recommend it. As regards advice, one of the most important things is to be able to put yourself in your client€s shoes. It is only then that you can understand how you can help them best.

In what areas are there the most opportunities in Ireland?
IFSC/domestic etc. In terms of employment in investing consulting, most of the employers are companies that have been in the market here for a long time - demand for our services is growing steadily. Also, prospects are good in the asset management business owing to a steady stream of international managers setting up operations in Ireland.

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