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I had an interesting conversation with a colleague the other
day about the difference between being a consultant and a trusted advisor.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the difference. Increasingly,
companies have marketed advisory services as a replacement or supplement to
consulting services. Although the distinction between the two can seem unclear,
there is separation. I have found that framing my work as a trusted advisor
rather than as a consultant has enabled me to better serve my clients.
Certainly, consultants serve a critical role for companies in
every industry. They help solve problems, drive innovation, manage change and facilitate
implementation of critical business processes.
In the actuarial space, consultants leverage a sophisticated
set of technical, mathematical and analytical skills. We do our work with precision
and accuracy, and with deep understanding of risk management, pricing,
reserving and myriad other insurance concepts and practices.
While knowledge and ability are essential, they can have
practical limitations. There may even be situations when simply acting as a
consultant might fall short of client expectations.
Sometimes, a client must make a fundamental change to a
business practice. Other times, they may need to take steps to remediate
business-critical financial challenges. There are situations in which they need
to make long-term realignments for the health of their organization or its
culture. And absolutely, on some occasions, very difficult conversations need
to take place. The client needs to see a holistic picture of what is best for
them, their company and the company’s stakeholders.
Those are the times when a client may turn to a consultant
for guidance. But that’s when being a consultant may not be enough.
Those are times when a consultant must become a trusted advisor.
To be a trusted advisor is to be a partner and steward of your
client’s business. It requires you to understand your client’s challenges as if
they are your own. It means getting as excited for your client’s opportunities
as you would your own. It means actively listening. It means mobilizing your
expertise to guide your clients on the right path. All of this must happen
without the independence of your actuarial opinions being influenced by this
sense of connection.
At my firm, Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, we call that empathetic
customer service, and it is a pillar of our culture.
I’ve witnessed over the course of my career while working
with great companies and agile minds that empathetic customer service makes consultants
better. It’s a trait that all trusted advisors share.
Clients often demand specific things that a consultant’s
toolbox may lack: candor and transparency among them. When a young consultant
or actuary inquires about the skills that they need to develop to be a good
consultant, I generally suggest they rephrase the question.
Rather, the better question is, “What are the
skills [I] need to become a trusted business advisor?” For me, that’s the right
My answer is, invariably, empathy and integrity. And that is, often,
Art Randolph is a principal and consulting actuary with
Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, managing the firm’s Atlanta, Georgia, office. He
has been in the insurance industry since 1998 and has been consulting since
2001. Art’s consulting career has focused on medical professional liability (MPL), homeowners, commercial property, workers’ compensation, commercial
and personal automobile, general liability, commercial multiple peril and title
is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries (AAA) P/C Extreme Events and
Property Lines Committee, the AAA Workers’ Compensation Committee, the Casualty
Actuarial Society (CAS) Finance Committee and the Alabama Actuarial Council. Art is
actively involved with Association of Government Risk Pools (AGRiP), California
Association of Joint Powers Authorities (CAJPA), Captive Insurance Companies
Association (CICA), CPCU Society, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Insurance
Accounting and Systems Association (IASA), International Association of Black
Actuaries (IABA) and MPL Association.
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