Joe Herbers smiling and looking off to the right.
Blog Post

Passing The Torch

5 minutes

My 16-year tenure as managing principal of Pinnacle Actuarial Resources has been both challenging and rewarding. Taking the helm in 2008, the first order of business was to communicate the firm’s first Strategic Plan and to implement a new leadership structure. It was like opening a book for the first time without any idea as to how the storyline would unfold.

I was fortunate then to have a strong leadership team focused on the long-term priorities of the firm and with my long-term colleague Rob Walling there every step of the way. Pinnacle’s value proposition, at the time I became managing principal, was focused on expertise and superior customer service. Note these are two of the pillars that are the foundation of our current brand Commitment Beyond Numbers (more on that later). Importantly, Pinnacle’s value proposition was also grounded in our independence, which has provided us the wherewithal to deliver unbiased advice to our clients.

Our governance changed from a traditional hierarchy to a functional management structure, which allowed the leadership of the firm to spread out management responsibilities and authority in order to more effectively implement our Strategic Plan. One area of particular importance to Pinnacle then was related to the key function of development.

The training, mentoring and development of our people had not been given the priority we felt necessary. The firm’s former approach to training was simpler--to have our people learn by doing. We realized, however, that a more rigorous approach and more formal training and skills development were optimal for our clients and crucial to the long-term success of the firm.

Another critical area that required focused attention was professionalism. Pinnacle has always had a culture of volunteerism, but we recognized more emphasis was needed to nurture our staff into a more professional culture that truly contributed to the growth and strength of our great profession That is, we wanted adherence to the Code of Conduct of the American Academy of Actuaries (AAA), the Actuarial Standards of Practice promulgated by the Actuarial Standards Board (ASB) and the Statement of Principles on Ratemaking, Loss Reserving and Valuation promulgated by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) to be front of mind to all our people. Furthermore, we felt a strong culture rooted in collaboration and peer review would significantly enhance the quality of our work products.

Pinnacle’s Professionalism function involves all credentialed actuaries on staff. We expect all to volunteer their time to professional actuarial bodies. Further, we strongly encourage people to ascend to leadership roles on committees and as officers and/or board members of our professional societies. Since forming Pinnacle, three of our leaders have also been elected as President of the CAS, another the President of the AAA and several have served as Board Members in the CAS and the AAA. It is in our DNA to lead.

The functional area of governance model that Pinnacle deployed was a precursor to our current Key Management Area (KMA) approach. Our KMA structure provides a strategic approach to leadership development. That is, future leaders of the firm are given the opportunity to participate in one of 11 KMAs and to eventually assume leadership. Providing opportunities to participate in the progression of our culture and to enhance the firm’s reputation is a hallmark of the way Pinnacle runs its business.

Beginning in 2006, Pinnacle began offering monthly webinars on educational topics of interest to actuaries free of charge. Now, 18 years later, our Pinnacle APEX Webinars continue to offer free continuing education every month to interested parties and is another way of “giving back” to the profession.

Pinnacle launched a new brand in 2012 -- “Commitment Beyond Numbers” -- intended to solidify and communicate our firm’s special culture to the outside world. Commitment is the essence of who Pinnacle is. Our commitment to our clients, people and profession drives what we do every day. We believe Commitment Beyond Numbers successfully captured and enhanced our reputation and, along with a strategic shift in our approach to recruiting,  led to the elevation of talented leaders Derek Freihaut, Art Randolph, Roosevelt Mosley as principals, and in recent years, other elevations to principal and future leaders of the firm – Aaron Hillebrandt and Tim Mosler.

With the addition of many qualified candidates beginning in the past decade we now have more than 35 credentialed actuaries on staff and growing every year. Many of our outstanding employees have been with us more than 20 years.

These have been eventful years for our firm. I know that personally, I have seen and learned a lot. As Pinnacle enters our 22nd year in business, I feel obliged to pass along the more important lessons I have learned over these past many years including:

  • Being there for employees and their families is the most impactful gesture a leader can make
  • Humility is perhaps the most appealing quality a leader can personify
  • The importance of listening with an empathetic and unjudging ear endears a leader to others
  • Facing failures head-on without excuses helps mold a leader into a wiser person
  • A true test of a person’s character is how one behaves and reacts to adversity

I have every confidence in the future of Pinnacle, as leadership is committed to the culture built over the past 20-plus years. We know the future leaders of Pinnacle are already in-house and that fosters considerable optimism for our next 20 years.

For me, I will continue to work as a consultant and nurture both the long-standing client relationships and new opportunities. Mentoring the younger generation will strengthen the foundation of our firm an enable Pinnacle to flourish, and I am honored to continue working with such an exceptional group of colleagues.

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