Actuarial Science Guest Speaker David X. Li on Leadership

On October 26th, David X. Li, whom the Financial Times named “the world’s most influential actuary,” spoke before nearly one hundred Actuarial Science graduate students, alumni, and chief actuaries and other practitioners. David Madigan, executive VP and Dean of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS); Richard Davis, chair of the Statistics department; and Jose Blanchet, Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research and of Statistics were also present.

Li spoke not only about crafting effective and powerful models but also about the role that actuaries can play in shaping the destiny of their organizations. “I like to solve problems elegantly,” said Li, “but [as an actuary] you can also work with others to get them to move the whole company forward.”

He urged those in the audience to develop communication skills in addition to their finely honed analytical skills. “If you just want to become an actuary and sit in the corner, that’s one life, and you should realize that as early as possible. But you have to realize that, if your organization is at this level and you are above that level, you have to be able to sell your vision to others. Those are the soft aspects of the business.”

Most recently, Li was the head of modeling for AIG Investments. David was previously with China International Capital Corporation (CICC) Limited, Barclays Capital, and Citigroup. As one of the early pioneers in credit derivatives, Li has established a valuation methodology which has been become the market standard: the Gaussian copula model or Li model. David’s work has been featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. He initiated and built the first commercial CDO software, CDO Manager, at the RiskMetrics Group (RMG).