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Inside story: Matthew Byrne, IFoA volunteer

Published on: 23 May 2023

Matthew Byrne, head of actuarial function at NFU Mutual

Matthew ByrneWhere are you based?

Warwickshire, UK.

What volunteer role(s) do you do for the IFoA?

I’m currently leading a workstream on data science professionalism, regulation and ethics. Historically I’ve been involved in a wide range of working parties.

How long have you been volunteering?

Since 2006.

What’s involved in your role(s)?

Researching and thinking about the ethical and professional aspects of data science for actuaries (and the wider data science community); deciding what sort of content might be helpful for actuaries to help them embrace data science in their work while mitigating the risks; working with the rest of the data science community leadership team to steer data science topics at the IFoA.

What motivates you to volunteer for the IFoA?

Volunteering helps me stay up to date with emerging industry practice, develop my own knowledge and skills, and build my professional network.

What have you/do you hope to achieve in your volunteer role? 

I’ve often found other working party reports useful in my own work, and hope the reports I’ve been involved in have also provided practical and pragmatic support for other actuaries in their work.

What new skills or knowledge do you think you have developed?

I’ve learned a great deal about a wide range of topics across pricing, reserving, capital modelling, risk, data science, communication, report writing and more.

Has this assisted your lifelong learning?

Definitely. Working parties always involve learning – individually, as a group and ultimately across the whole profession.

Do you think volunteering has helped you in your day job?

By choosing working parties on topics that are relevant to my day job I have almost always been able to apply the learning to my role. The network of actuarial contacts I have built is also helpful.

Have there been any memorable moments?

Reports from two of the working parties I’ve been involved in have won the Brian Hey prize for best research paper – I’m hoping to make it three. Also, in 2021, through my work on data science at the IFoA, I was invited to deliver virtual presentations on data science ethics to actuarial societies in South Africa, Switzerland, India and the UK. A global trek, all from my dining room table!

How do you balance your day job and your volunteer role?

NFU Mutual has always been happy to support my volunteer activity, recognising the benefits it brings to my day job.

How do you relax away from the office?

I enjoy creating digital art using a combination of Photoshop, Blender and, most recently, Stable Diffusion. I also read a lot of books.

What would you say to others considering a volunteer role?

Go for it – you’ll meet interesting people and learn something.

What was your earliest dream job?

I always wanted to be an actuary!

What word best describes you?

Curious – I’m always trying to learn more.

Do you prefer a staycation or holiday abroad?

A staycation.

If you were locked in a famous building for one night...which would it be and why?

The Library of Congress in Washington – plenty of books to read.

What would you consider to be the most brilliant moment of your career to date?

Getting my first job as an actuarial trainee, and still being at the same company 25 years later!