Introduce Yourself: Gary Walters

Gary Walters

1. Why did you become an actuary?
As a Maths major there was no obvious career path so I did a battery of those career tests in my final year at university. Most of the options were a broker of some sort (shipping, insurance, stock, etc.), but actuary also came up and sounded a lot less like selling. Furthermore, I had a gap year and summer job as a clerk at a small life insurance company, where the one and only actuary started showing me some of the things he did. I really didn’t understand what he did, but it did look like problem-solving, which seemed fun. (He also commented that it was well paid.) Seemed like it was worth a try!

2. When you tell people you’re an actuary, what do they think you do?
Infuriatingly, they generally think we are a type of technical accountant (even more esoteric than a tax accountant!). Try adding to that explaining reinsurance. Now they really are convinced there is someone more interesting to talk to at the party!

3. Who has inspired you the most during your career? Did you have a mentor in your early career?
Peter Clark, a senior actuary at the company I worked for in the UK (and incidentally the person who first interviewed me in a very nice corner office) acted as someone I bounced things off career-wise after I moved to Canada. As President of the Institute of Actuaries in the UK he stayed with us several times while visiting Toronto and tried (and failed) to get my wife to understand and appreciate the Goons (a British radio comedy act from the 1950s).

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy mentoring my staff, challenging the status quo (particularly going back to principles rather than relying on rules that have developed over the years) and looking for new ways to approach problems.

5. What career would you follow if you weren’t an actuary?
Likely a teacher (or maybe professor)—I taught at the Practice Education Course (PEC) for many years and loved it.

6. What are your hobbies?
Downhill skiing, photography, travelling, reading, drinking wine, opera, gardening, and going to the cottage.

7. What is your favourite music, book, and film?
Music: I am an opera lover, but all classical music and musical theatre (especially Les Miserables). Movies: Schindler’s List, The Shawshank Redemption, and Life is Beautiful. Books: The Lord of the Rings.

8. Where is your dream vacation destination?
Taking my family on a relaxed trip to see the parts of Britain I remember as a child and those I never visited but wanted to.

9. What do you do better than anyone you know?
I was for several years one of a small panel of international badminton referees, being the lead official at a Commonwealth games and a world junior championships, and attending two Olympics.

10. If you could be anybody else, alive or dead, who would it be, and why?
Tough one. I have been fortunate enough to be able to do much of what I really wanted in my life and so I am really quite happy being me!

Gary Walters is senior vice-president, pricing and group reinsurance, at RGA.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires