Marjorie is the Immediate Past President of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), headquartered in the UK. In her role as president she chaired its 30 person Council. Marjorie was elected by the IFoA Council to the presidential team in June 2016 making her the youngest president in the IFoA’s 160-year history, the third female and the first person of colour to hold the post. Marjorie is the first IFoA president to be based outside the UK.
From 2009 to 2011 she was Editor of The Actuary magazine circulated to a worldwide readership of over 20,000.
Marjorie currently serves as a Non-Executive Director on a number of boards in the insurance and not for profit sector in South Africa and the UK, including the Legal Resources Trust supporting the Legal Resources Centre, a human rights organisation founded in 1979.
Marjorie is formerly a member of the Group Executive Committee of Liberty Group in South Africa and was responsible for the execution of strategy across the group’s multinational insurance, asset management and balance sheet management operations. Prior to that she was Chief Risk Officer of Old Mutual’s African Operations. Marjorie is a holder of a Sloan Masters of Leadership and Strategy from the London Business School. She was a recipient of the Sloan scholarship. In addition, Marjorie also completed the Channel Leadership Program at INSEAD.
As an actuary who is passionate about continuous development, she has given her time to teaching undergraduate/postgraduate actuarial students at universities globally. Marjorie is a Visiting Lecturer at Cass Business School, UK and has presented at a number of industry conferences
Can you tell us about your background and career to date?
I was born in the UK and raised in post independence Zimbabwe. Growing up, my parents insisted that I would follow a profession and I chose what was, back then, an emerging profession in Zimbabwe. It was touted to be one of the most challenging paths to pursue so it appealed to me.
The road to qualification was not an easy one. I started my actuarial studies at the London School of Economics. Very early on when I was at university, the Zimbabwe dollar began to depreciate, making it really tough for my parents to keep me in London. which left me with no choice but, to withdraw from my studies. I then took a job as a tax associate at Deloitte. When an actuarial vacancy arose in the organisation, I applied, and got the job, conditional on passing the actuarial exams, I went on to qualify as an actuary whilst I was working.
I have enjoyed varied environments having lived worked in the UK, Netherlands, Canada and South Africa.
The earlier part of my career was spent in actuarial roles with audit and reinsurance firms and later in risk management and strategy leadership roles.
Once I had qualified as an actuary I began to volunteer for my professional body, marking examinations, teaching, editing a magazine and later joining the governing body; the Council. In 2016 I was nominated and subsequently confirmed as president elect and have recently concluded my term as president.
A few years ago I took a brief career break to complete a Masters program in Leadership and Strategy at the London Business School. It was such an enriching experience and one that gave me time to pause and reflect on my future path.
I am now a speaker, freelance consultant and non-executive director based in South Africa.
What would you say are the main personality traits you have that helped you progress?
Being determined, courageous, forthright and contrarian.
In your career, what has been the most difficult challenge and how did you overcome that?
Until June 2018, I spent a year as President of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA). It required me to travel relentlessly, to leave my day job and to juggle a number of complex situations that arose. I surrounded myself with people who could help me to maintain an objective perspective and who could provide the mental and emotional support that I very much needed.
What is the single, greatest instance of trade-off you have had to make in reaching the role you currently hold and, in hindsight, would you change it if you could?
When I was nominated as President Elect (of the IFoA), I had just been offered a job I had been vying for. It was a job I thought would be my ultimate career goal. I turned it down preferring instead to walk a less familiar but potentially more fulfilling path. The nomination was not something I foresaw but it was an opportunity I couldn’t resist exploring. I have no regrets!
What are the top 3 things you would advise people to do to manage their career growth?
Seek, give and act on feedback.
How can one ensure that they are a top performer in this competitive and ever changing environment?
There are potentially many ways to do this. From my perspective, firstly, by finding an environment that requires your input in order to be successful and by doing what you can to ensure it is an environment in which you can thrive. Further, by knowing what you are good at and applying your energy to honing the skills that are not so sharp.
What does diversity mean to you?
Embracing our differences. It means being curious and being open to understanding others. We are all uniquely created and we have the potential to bring together our various talents and perspectives to create more than each one of us could individually.
What observations have you made about the progress of diversity and inclusion in organizations that you’ve worked in?
The progress has been slow but headed in the right direction. Often, the will to change is present but the decision-makers who could deliver the diversity outcomes they are seeking aren’t themselves diverse. This leads to a compounding of unconscious bias. This article from Forbes resonated with me and it explains why we hire people who are just like us: Why You Mistakenly Hire People Just Like You – Forbes
What do you think is the key to unlocking the talent pipeline in women of colour that could open the door from middle management to senior management?
There is no single formula in my view. A combination of things could help, among them: diversifying promotion panels, ensuring there are mentors and sponsors for those in the talent pipeline, objective performance appraisals with clear criteria to be met to make the move into senior management.
Have you experienced any kind of discrimination in the workplace (consciously or unconsciously)? And how have you tackled it?
I have indeed experienced workplace discrimination and it has (to my knowledge) mostly been unconscious discrimination – often related to my gender or age rather than my ethnicity. I often call it out in as unconfrontational manner as possible, with humour, where appropriate. If I consider it to be a trivial instance, I shrug it off.
What role do you think mentoring plays in career progression?
Having mentors is a good way to receive constructive feedback and benefit from alternative perspectives. I have found mentors to be highly beneficial to my own development.
What advice would you give to someone beginning their career in any industry?
Stay curious, thirst to know and never become complacent. Careers are not built solely on technical prowess; build networks and develop your core non-technical skills. Let setbacks be real-time lessons and celebrate every little success!
You can follow Marjorie on twitter @JoburgActuary