Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Career Paths: Actuarial Consultant

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buck consultants corporate logoIn the wake of 2008’s economic meltdown, perhaps no single industry stood to gain or lose so greatly as the consulting sector.  Consultancies were forced to adapt dramatically as the ensuing budget slashing and stagnant spending threatened to stem contracts.  One such firm, Buck Consultants, has benefited from its stable of human resources and actuarial talent to develop products tailored to aid clients in enduring those rocky days.  Among them is Buck principal Chad Hueffmeier, who has specifically engineered solutions to preserve pension financing and clients’ benefit structures.

Prior to joining Buck in April 2009, Hueffmeier enjoyed a steady rise through the ranks—first as an actuary at top HR firms, then as leader of Morgan Stanley’s Global Portfolio Solutions group.  As an accomplished specialist in risk management, his credentials include membership in the American Academy of Actuaries and the Society of Actuaries.  In addition to writing and contributed to papers on the subject, including “Come the Revolution! A New Day for Pension Risk Management,” Chad is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world.  In a conversation with Vault, Mr. Hueffmeier elaborated on his accomplishments, and why he left Wall Street just in time.

VAULT: Prior to Buck Consultants, you were an executive director at Morgan Stanley.  With companies like Morgan and Goldman Sachs now under scrutiny and congressional hearings, how do you imagine the past year at Buck has differed from what you’d have experienced by staying on Wall Street?

Chad Hueffmeier: It was much less stressful!  In 2008, the failures of Bear Sterns, Lehman and essentially Merrill Lynch made it abundantly clear that job security on Wall Street was uncertain regardless of business success.  At the very least, this was a major distraction for almost anyone working on Wall Street.  Although the past year hasn’t been easy for consulting firms, we have not had to deal with the distractions of regulatory reform for our industry and public perception issues.  We have been able to focus on modifying our business strategy to reflect market opportunities.  This led to consolidation in the industry and the expansion of services provided to clients.

V: Buck Consultants isn’t your first foray in human resources consulting; before Morgan Stanley, you held positions with Towers Perrin, Mercer and Hewitt Associates.  What brought you back to HR?

CH: As I mentioned above, our industry has expanded its array of services.  Over the past few years, investment consulting and asset management worlds have began to overlap.  Many investment consulting firms have started manager of manager businesses—Buck is no exception.  Although the roots of the industry are certainly in HR, the growth opportunities in the corporate retirement space revolve around financial risk management for sponsors of defined benefit plans and participants of defined contribution plans.

V: For a relatively young professional, your resume is comprised of many top firms, and sports several distinguished actuarial titles and memberships.  Why did you first pursue consulting as a career, and how would you describe your first years at a major consulting firm?

CH: In a sense, I got lucky.  I grew up a mile outside of Linneus, Missouri—a rural town in north central MO—so I had very limited exposure to potential financial careers (e.g., accounting and commercial banking).  I randomly heard about a well paying field that pays you more if you pass math exams—the actuarial field.  I attended Maryville University in St. Louis, MO because they had one of the strongest actuarial programs in the country.  Friendly competition among classmates and the encouragement of the actuarial professors motivated me to get through about a third of actuarial exams while I was still in school.  I finished the actuarial exams a couple years later while I was working at a consulting firm.  During this time, I also took the CFA exams.  The combination of self-education, working with great people, and the evolution of risk management in the 2000’s allowed me to grow quickly in my career.

V: Your firm is an independent subsidiary of the renowned IT services firm ACS.  In a consultancy owned by a consultancy, how often does Buck collaborate on assignments with its parent company?

CH: We certainly collaborate to develop value-added products / services for the market place.  In general, our businesses complement each other so we have been able to provide value to several clients through comprehensive bundled solutions.  In addition, our target markets are complementary so we are able to provide value to a large array of clients.

V:  In addition to being a consultant, you’re also a frequent public speaker, and an author of several articles and white papers.  Are such extracurricular endeavors a necessity for those looking to pursue or advance their career in consulting, or are they more an extension of personal interests?

CH: There is a plethora of career tracks within consulting firms.  Taking time to write papers, speak, and participate on national committees are not required but pay dividends in terms of career and giving something back to the profession.

–Posted by Alex Tuttle, Vault.com

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