Sustainability actuary and incoming President Elect of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
An interview with Louise Pryor
18 Mar 2020
In this blog, Amy Sutherland and Raluca Stanescu interview Louise Pryor, who is a sustainability actuary and incoming President Elect of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA). We’ve asked Louise a few questions about her work, and were also keen to find out her views of the actuarial profession and how it links to sustainability.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
There isn’t one. I am a freelance actuary and I am transitioning at the moment towards a portfolio career and exploring non-executive directing.
I have done some work with ClimateWise, the leadership grouping of insurance companies, as well as disaster risk insurance, and city risk more generally, which was in conjunction with the Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge.
On the consulting side I do some work in the area of pensions and social security reform in developing countries. I am part of a firm called Callund Consulting Ltd, a grouping of freelance actuaries.
As part of the move into the non-executive world, I am currently the Chair of the London Climate Change Partnership (LCCP) partnership, which is a voluntary role. They look at how London adapts to climate change. I’ve also recently been appointed a NED of the Ecology Building Society.
I also do a lot with the IFoA. I was a Member of the Education Board, am a past Chair of the Resource & Environment Board and I am currently a Member of the Council and the Management Board.
I note that you call yourself a ‘climate-change’ actuary. How does this relate to typical ways of describing actuaries by their practice are, as presumably this is a cross-market role?
I consider myself a ‘sustainability actuary’ rather than a ‘climate-change actuary’.
Typical ways of describing an actuary tend to depend on the industry we work in but it would be good if actuaries could think of themselves more in terms of the skills they have rather than the industry they know.
There are loads of opportunities for actuaries in this space, such as:
- energy supply modelling
- climate change modelling
- climate risk reporting using the TCFD framework
- Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) – related to how climate change will actually affect the financial and economic world
What can actuaries do day-to-day to take climate change into account and make a difference?
One thing to think about is that a lot of the current strategic planning for pensions is working towards an insurance solution such as buy-out over the next 20 years.
Actuaries, as well as other advisors and the trustees, need to think about whether the buy-out pricing in 20 years’ time will be consistent with what our current future expectations are now.
It is likely that climate change will have a big impact on transactions such as these, and the planning to achieve the current pricing basis won’t be effective. Climate change is an important strategic consideration that needs to underlie day-to-day actions that influence this longer term plan.
Climate change is an important strategic consideration that needs to underlie day-to-day actions that influence this longer term plan.
Louise Pryor - President Elect of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
What issues and risks relating to climate change do you think the following face:
Actuaries face a big reputational risk in that, if, or when, we start to see the impacts of climate change picking up in the next 5 - 10 years, everybody will start to question actuaries as to why they didn’t warn people this would happen.
All organisations will face an adaptation risk, where the weather may become too extreme for staff to get to work, or supply problems, particularly if there is a disorderly transition to a low-carbon society. There is also the ‘heat island’ effect which will be quite significant as most organisations are in cities.
How do you communicate the urgency of action on climate change without being seen as ‘fearmongering’?
A lot of what we should try and do is not to go overboard, but to talk about it and make it part of day to day life. Climate change is happening, and we have to work out what to do about it. We need to talk about it a lot, so people see that it’s not just “tree huggers” who worry, that normal people are worried about it. Then it becomes the norm, rather than extremist.
The impacts of climate change are already occurring, and we can see it now. It is not going to be a single cataclysmic event, it’s a gradual process, and even if we can’t keep the temperature down to 1.5 or 2 degrees, maybe we can keep it down to 3 and that will still be better than 4. There is always something we can do to make it better.
Finally, with the majority of climate-related news being pessimistic and scientific studies showing that not enough is being done, how do you stay optimistic that everything will turn out okay?
I engage with a lot of online content on this subject and one person that stands out to me is Climate Adam on Twitter. He does some really good talks on YouTube and they’re only short, 2 minute, videos. He’s done a fantastic one on this point above.
Also, there is a huge swing happening; societal shifts can take a long time to build up, but when they happen they happen really quickly.
We all need to prepare and be ready to adapt when this change happens, not just work towards actually making it happen.