Q: Is it true you come from a family of actuaries?
Well, my father is an actuary and he even worked for Milliman for a few years back when I was small enough that the word Milliman was a tongue twister for me. But I didn't grow up wanting to be an actuary. I thought I would work with computers, but it was while I was pursuing that interest that I had the opportunity to work with some other very good actuaries who enjoyed their work immensely. Seeing how much they enjoyed what they were doing convinced me that I should give actuarial work a closer look. I was intrigued by the combination of statistics and problem solving and I really enjoyed building the models. Actually, when I was first looking into actuarial work, the examinations were themselves an attraction to me because I liked the fact that the career entailed a very clear qualification standard and you would know when you had met those. When I actually sat for the exams, I found out how hard they were. But I haven't ever regretted my career choice because I still find it enjoyable and challenging.
Q: Was your dad happy that you became an actuary?
Yes. He’s been very proud of my career and very pleased that I have pursued my career with Milliman. The actuarial world is relatively small, so he’s in contact with many of the Milliman professionals I work with. That provides a nice professional intersection for our lives, one that’s totally separate from our family relationship.
Q: How did you come to work for Milliman?
I worked with my father in a small consulting firm that was purchased by Milliman in 1991. At that point, I had to decide whether I wanted to join Milliman and be a part of that company or go in a different direction. It was not a difficult choice for me at all because of Milliman's reputation for high-quality technical work and the professional atmosphere here. I felt like I would have immense opportunities for personal advancement if I were to join up with Milliman.
Q: Any chance your children will become actuaries and continue the tradition?
Both of my children are chemical engineers so I think that chance has passed.
Q: What is Milliman's reputation in the consulting world?
Independence is the word that always comes to mind first. Our clients know that we're going to tell it like it is, that we don't have a vested interest in a particular outcome or steering them toward any preconceived direction of what the solution should be. They're going to get an absolutely independent, fresh approach to the problem. Those qualities, combined with the fact that we try to be just as thorough and complete and rigorous in our technical development as we can, help our clients know that they're going to get the real answers from Milliman.
Q: It sounds like those qualities might make it a good place to work, too, because you have the freedom to find the right answers.
I would definitely agree with that. You spend a lot of time at your job building models and producing answers, and it would be not nearly as rewarding if you felt like your task was just to get the expedient answer. At our office, everyone’s charged with doing the best they can to find the right answer and all our colleagues and the company support that.
Q: What is the Milliman Medical Index? Could you explain what it is and talk about its significance?
I became involved with the Milliman Medical Index (MMI) in the second year of its development. I chaired the MMI Development Committee for several years, although a team of people developed the Index and work on it every year.
The MMI brings together several components of Milliman's health research. The MMI allows us to measure the total cost of delivering medical care to a typical American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored PPO healthcare plan. We select that family of four as a benchmark that we can hold constant from year to year and then we compute both the costs that are paid by the insurance coverage but also the costs that the employee pays out of pocket. That's the thing that is really unique about the MMI versus other healthcare cost surveys that are out there. It’s a complete approach. The MMI measures that out-of-pocket portion that most surveys do not. The MMI has become a standard measure for the cost of healthcare. We're proud of the fact that it's become an accepted and often-quoted value when people are discussing healthcare costs.
Q: Do you believe that Milliman’s actuarial foundation brings something new to the tracking of healthcare costs?
Yes. I think it’s a good example of something our expertise has allowed us to bring to the discussion. At the same time, we recognize that there are other professionals whose expertise complements Milliman’s actuarial strength. Over time, we’ve integrated other professionals into our firm and, in doing so, developed our offerings in unique ways. Within the healthcare area, we have clinicians, physicians, and nurses who bring that expertise. We have individuals who are experts in underwriting. We have experts in information technology. These experts are really a core part of what Milliman does.
Q: Let's project forward five years from now and say there's a radical transformation to the healthcare system. Do you think Milliman’s skills and expertise will be readily transferable to a new system, even if it's radically different?
Well, in one way or another, our work is all about risk. We're measuring it, we're managing it, we're protecting against it, and most of those risks are going to be present as far in the future as anyone can see. There are probably new risks that will emerge. But, as society and individuals manage and protect against those risks, no matter where it resides, the risk is still there and still needs to be managed. And that’s where our expertise resides. So, yes, I believe Milliman is going to be successful in staying at the forefront of understanding those challenges, helping our clients adapt and thrive in whatever new environment it is.
Q: You sat on two steering committees in different disciplines: Life and Health?
Because Milliman doesn't have a limited number of set career paths, it's not only possible, but it's actually quite common for Milliman professionals to have a unique combination of expertise. This happens to be my combination and, because of that, I've enjoyed some opportunities to interact with a variety of Milliman professionals and to serve Milliman in a variety of leadership capacities. Whether it's been on a standing committee or in ad hoc working groups, it's been an enhancement to my career because I enjoy doing a number of different things. I also try to bring that full range of my knowledge and expertise to the work that I do for my clients.
Q: When your children were young, how did you describe your job to them?
Well, I would tell them that I built models on the computer to help better understand what happens in the real world. When people get sick, they might need to spend money to get better. I project what the costs will be and how those will be paid for.
Q: Could you talk about your experience with the issue of work/life balance and how Milliman addresses it?
Sure. You know, both work and personal time requirements change a lot during the course of a career. Right now, I’m at a point in my life where the personal demands on my time are pretty stable, but that wasn’t always the case.
I find that I perform better and I'm a happier person when I spend time on physical, emotional, and intellectual pursuits as well as professional growth. I try to allow time several times a week for activities that I enjoy, like running, hiking, skiing, golf, and gardening. These are all things I enjoy doing with my family and my friends. I find that the time I spend out of doors in physical pursuits really improves my concentration and my professional performance, so I really don't see the time allocation as a zero-sum game. In fact, it improves my overall productivity and, for that reason, I try to encourage that with the rest of my staff as well. We all work better when we have those release valves and when we pay attention to the other parts of our lives that are not just focused on work.
We also enjoy some of those activities with our colleagues. Right now, our office is sponsoring a 12-person relay team for a 180-mile race that's coming up in June. We built a team out of employees, family members, clients, and friends and expect to spend about 25 hours running through the Wasatch Mountains in the race. We're really having a lot of fun training together.
Q: I understand you’re a marathon runner. Have you learned anything in those races that’s informed your professional life?
I have run a few marathons, yes. I really do think there is a mental focus that is required for endurance events that does help make me better at the work I do. I think the ability to focus on a problem and to direct your time, energy, and mental focus for a few hours of a marathon is similar to a few hours spent working on a project. People can focus on a mental task for a period of time, but then they need to step back and think creatively about it. This is where problem solving comes in. How am I going to get from A to B by the existing deadline? It’s the same way you feel during a marathon when you ask yourself, “How am I going to get through these last six miles of the race?”
I think there's also a confidence that translates between the two and I think that goes both ways. Whether I'm racing or I'm at work, knowing that I have accomplished things that are difficult in the past makes me more confident that I can work through whatever I'm trying to do right now.
Q: What kind of advice would you give a new employee on his first day at Milliman?
The advice I would give people is to be a sponge but also be curious. In other words, learn all that you can from the other professionals that you work with, the clients, the writings, and tools. Then explore those concepts and ideas yourself so that you can develop your own personal understanding of the work we do and cultivate your own ability to create new ideas and solutions.
There's so much knowledge within this firm. Every time I interact with my colleagues, I'm just astounded at the very intelligent people I work with and the things that they know. I always learn fascinating and useful things.
Q: Although it's very common for people to switch companies many times during the course of a career, it seems as though many Milliman employees stay at the firm for the duration. Does this ring true for you?
Absolutely. Professionals tend to stay at Milliman for large portions of their career. When we recruit new employees, we look for people who bring not only the skills for the tasks we need done today, but those who also have the capability to grow and develop within the Milliman environment. Even with younger professionals, it means that we're looking for signs that there's leadership potential and that this could be someone who is interested in taking initiatives and taking advantages of opportunities to learn and grow within the firm.
Once we hire people, we really are invested in their professional growth for the long term, so we try to make sure there are lots of opportunities to learn and take on new responsibilities. Sometimes that's not as obvious to an outsider because we don't have a lot of titles or a steep hierarchy, but it happens all the time.
At Milliman, employees are individual professionals who are constantly developing more skills to offer to the industry. They get increasingly more opportunities to manage their own work and to lead teams. The titles are secondary.
That's why, as we're looking for new Milliman professionals, it's so important that we find people who thrive in this kind of environment and are excited by these kinds of opportunities. We want our employees to choose their own career directions, people who can take the initiative without needing to be put on a track where someone is prodding them the whole way.
Q: Is there any compliment that you or your staff or Milliman, as an organization, has gotten that's stuck with you?
Often a new client will call and say, “We haven't talked before, but the insurance department told me that Milliman is the firm that I need to call to address this problem.” Or “We're forming a community committee to come up with better ideas to address an issue and it's imperative we have a Milliman person working on this with us.” Those kinds of little comments really reinforce for me that the Milliman reputation—globally and locally—is rock solid.
I’m really proud of the reputation that Milliman enjoys in our local market here. Milliman's corporate reputation is the basis for that and it’s the foundation that the efforts of our local staff build on. I know that's something that is the result of delivering high-quality advice and good service to our clients over many years and it has to be continually reinforced.
Q: How would you describe your relationship with your colleagues at Milliman’s other offices?
The professional relationships I enjoy with my colleagues at Milliman are something I value a great deal. It’s a very important part of why I’m so happy with my career here at Milliman. I work every day with Milliman professionals in other offices. We collaborate on several clients and a large number of projects. Not only do I find this team approach indispensable for delivering high-quality work to our clients, but I find it very professionally rewarding to me.
I have the opportunity to meet with my colleagues from other offices a few times a year. I'm currently serving on Milliman's Board of Directors and there I have the opportunity to interact with Milliman's leadership on a regular basis. It’s been a great experience to see firsthand how strongly the leaders at Milliman really care about the well-being of the firm, the opportunities for all of the professionals, and making sure that Milliman remains a great place to work. The leadership here is dedicated to creating a lasting and productive company so that we can continue to serve our clients for years to come.
Q: What do you like most about being the director of the health practice?
What I like most is that I get to work with all Milliman employees across the firm. That was one of the reasons I was most interested in this position. Every day, I help consultants solve difficult issues with their work or their clients and work on important initiatives that bring more opportunities to our health consultants.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure as director of the health practice?
The health practice was already in great shape when I became director, but I do want to leave it better than I found it. To feel that I’ve been successful in that, I want to help the health practice continue to be the ideal place for talented professionals coming up within Milliman to build their careers. I want to enable opportunities and encourage an environment of collaboration. This will be key to finding new ways to apply our expertise.
Q: At the moment, what project are you especially excited about?
Much of our consulting work depends on insights delivered from client and research data, but right now we’re taking new, bold steps to make our client work even more data-driven. Preparing data for useful analysis can take a lot of time and effort. We want to tear down that barrier to data so that consultants can use all available information when they are advising clients. Milliman’s health consultants now have a tool called Atmosphere on their desks. Atmosphere, which is the data prep engine for MedInsight, facilitates efficiently completing the data peer review and compiling functions. Consultants can collect data, determine if it’s accurate, and add benchmarks. It provides a powerful tool that enables greater understanding of what’s going on with a client’s business.