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December Inside story: Nick Spencer

Published on: 2 Dec 2020

Nick SpencerWhere are you based?

Greenwich, London.

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

Chair, Sustainability Board; co-chair, Climate-Related Risk Taskforce (CRRT); member, Biodiversity Working Party and Actuaries for Transformational Change; past chair, Argonauts Dining Club.

How long have you been volunteering?

Five years (and Argonauts’ member for 20-plus years).

What’s involved in your role(s)?

The Sustainability Board seeks to help actuaries understand and address the economic and financial risks and uncertainties that arise from sustainability issues. I help co-ordinate the Board’s activities, and I have personally set three themes for my tenure: 1) Implement the CRRT report, 2) increase focus on biodiversity, human rights, and diversity and inclusion, and 3) reinvigorate the IFoA’s thought-leadership.

What motivates you to volunteer for the IFoA?

Learning, self-development and helping the profession to make a difference all count. But it’s also the freedom to roam in areas of interest and work with people who share my passions. I am fortunate to be taught and mentored through these interactions – and hope I can pass that support on to others.

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

That actuaries are fascinating – the talents and experiences I discovered in one-to-ones with board members was eye-opening! The simpler skills are those addressing knowledge gaps, but the real benefit is from interactions with those of different disciplines. This gives practical insights that aren’t found in textbooks. The other skills are soft skills – leading groups and teams with little hierarchy.

Has this assisted your lifelong learning?

Volunteering is the Harrier jump jet of lifelong learning – straight up and away.

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

Totally. The stream of knowledge, different perspectives and working with regulators are invaluable and sit alongside the softer skills of working within a board.

Have there been any memorable moments?

At the moment, the pinnacle is Council’s reaction to, and support of, the CRRT report, and their desire to take it forward.

What would you say to others considering a volunteer role?

Just do it. You get out what you put in. Working party groups expand your knowledge and support others.

What was your earliest dream job?

Discounting early desires to be an astronaut or Sherlock Holmes, I heard how actuaries solved innovative problems, such as using disinformation to disrupt the targeting of London Blitz bombs, so I was interested in using creative maths skills to be an actuary from my early teens.

What word best describes you?

‘Bricolagist’: I seek to create a collage of different skills, perspectives and approaches to generate solutions. I enjoy networking and connecting different ideas and people together.

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

An orangutan nest in the Kinabatangan Forest, Borneo. Orangutans are one of our closest relatives but it’s potentially our last chance to see them. If we don’t address deforestation, there’ll soon be none left.

To share your volunteer involvement or find out about volunteering for the IFoA, contact:

Nick Spencer, Founder of Gordian Advice, which helps large UK pension funds integrate responsible investment into their investment strategy and portfolios.