I am an Actuary – September 2014

Eight participants from the Professionalism Courses in Melbourne and Sydney talk about their current roles and future aspirations.

ROBERT BASKIN

I work for Australia’s fastest growing Actuarial firm – Quantium. The company has grown so fast that a mere three years’ work experience places you into the top quartile of employee tenure.

I joined Quantium in early 2011 at a time when we had 60-70 staff – we worked out of one floor, had no HR team, no IT team, and had one satellite office in Brisbane. Fast forward three years and we now span three levels in Sydney with further satellite offices in Bella Vista, Melbourne and Hyderabad, India. These days we have HR, IT, accounting and legal teams as well as two full-time graphic designers… oh, and a handful of actuaries and computer programmers too.

I work in the Market Blueprint team and we work closely with ‘big data’ to help our clients develop insights and strategy. With such rich data at our fingertips, we get exposed to a diverse range of clients from women’s fashion to pay TV.

No two weeks are the same at Quantium! Typically the work I do is in customer analytics, market share reporting and predictive modelling. Given the short timeframes of our work, I often find myself working on multiple projects each day so the ability to multi-task and re-focus is very helpful.

Outside of work you can try and catch me on the track where I compete in the 100m and 200m. At the time of writing this I was ranked 12th in Australia over the 100m in 2014. My other interests are in indie music, soccer and any film starring Leonardo DiCaprio – that guy deserves an Oscar!

robertbaskin@quantium.com.au

Note: Robert attended the Sydney Professionalism Course in February 2014, while the following contributors attended the Melbourne Professionalism Course in July 2014.

JANE YOUNG AND KYLIE HOGAN

Jane and Kylie both work at the Territory Insurance Office (TIO). When they joined, this trebled the actuarial field working in Darwin. Kylie and Jane met in their first lecture as postgraduate students at Melbourne University in 2010 when Kylie overheard Jane discussing the blackboards still used at Adelaide University in the Maths department! Unbeknown to them, they had studied the same degree a year apart.

After completing the year at Melbourne Uni Jane made the move north and joined TIO while Kylie joined Finity Consulting in Melbourne. They have both had varied careers over the last four years with Kylie developing her skills in the actuarial consulting field and Jane working on the other side, liaising for the business with the consulting actuary.

While the Territory is somewhat isolated, Jane has very much enjoyed working at TIO for the past four years, with the advantage of plenty of exposure across a relatively small company. When there is work that no-one else quite knows what to do with, it often comes Jane’s way which is both challenging and interesting.

Kylie’s time at Finity was extremely rewarding. Managing multiple clients and projects is challenging, however it prepares you to take on most things that come your way. The friendships and relationships formed during her time there will always be valued.

Late last year Kylie also made the move to Darwin and joined TIO. Kylie and Jane are now both working together in increasing TIO’s internal actuarial capabilities and supporting the business with all the weird and wonderful requests that come their way.

khogan@tiofi.com.au

jyoung@tiofi.com.au

LLOYD WILLIAMS

I am an actuary and I work in Oslo. There are many great reasons to live in Norway or just visit – including for the IAA Colloquium in June 2015.

I moved to Norway two years ago after receiving an offer from EY for actuarial consulting. As far as I know there are two other Australian actuaries living in Norway.

There is a great deal of change in insurance and its regulation in Norway. Not surprisingly, there is plenty of work for actuaries and not just due to Solvency II.

Norway has an array of well-established disability products, complex pension products, advanced non-life pricing, and a high use of technology. For example, purely machine-automated processing is common for small claims. Norway has appointed actuary positions, but it does not have an equivalent to our fellowship, just actuaries.

I changed recently to a life reserving, risk and solvency role in a Norwegian insurer, Sparebank 1 Forsikring AS. It purely operates in Norway so I need to speak and write in Norwegian. Norwegians have an impressive grasp of the English language. However, it is understandably a requirement for most work that one can operate in the local language. The Norwegian Oil Fund and large Norwegian marine insurers are notable exceptions, where English is their official language.

Before I moved to Norway, I worked for EY for five years in Australia, in areas such as operational risk modelling for Chinese and Australian banks/insurers, energy derivatives, Basel II risk, funds management and insurance audit. I am grateful to the wonderful people and varied and challenging work which, along with our Australian actuarial training, have all been invaluable in getting me here.

Amongst other benefits of being an ‘actuary’, the title means it is easier to work internationally and take part in the local actuarial societies.

lloyd6@gmail.com

MONIKA WEENINK

“I’m moving to Sydney”, these words seem to define my conversations at the moment. So how did I come to make this decision?

Sydney Professionalism Course in progress.
Sydney Professionalism Course in progress.

Having started as an AMP graduate in Melbourne just over two and a half years ago means that I have managed to gain a broad range of experiences as part of the program including in the Life Insurance Experience Investigations, Pricing and Valuation and ‘North’ Hedging teams.

These experiences have made me passionate about working in the life insurance industry, solving the problems that are being faced and explaining complex ideas in an easy to understand manner. I enjoy using the unique skillset that I have developed in formal and informal education that marks the road to becoming an actuary, as well as the much sought after actuarial judgement.

The challenges currently facing the industry mean this is an interesting time to be part of a life insurance company. However, with the life insurance industry in Melbourne shrinking, to continue working in this area I’ve made the decision to move up to Sydney.

This gives me a great opportunity to continue to apply the technical skills and judgement that I have learnt, in an industry that continues to throw different challenges to those that are part of it. Personally this is also a bit of an adventure and I look forward to exploring Sydney and its surrounds and having the ability to marvel at the Bridge and Opera house on a daily basis.

monikaweenink@gmail.com

SLESHA DEVI

“What did you learn yesterday?” One attendee answered “Elephants sleep for less than four hours”. Aside from this fun fact (and many others), what we really improved was our knowledge of the obligations and responsibilities that come with being a newly qualified AIAA or FIAA aka ‘baby’ or ‘big’ actuaries.

I started my career in a traditional actuarial role as a Superannuation Analyst at Mercer. During this period, my job ranged from the standard actuarial valuations on defined benefit funds through to more unusual, ad-hoc jobs, a result of the ever-evolving industry. This gave me a taste of the flexibility and variability in the Superannuation industry.

Three years later, I find myself working in a non-traditional actuarial role as an Executive Remuneration Consultant. My work involves analysing trends and patterns in data to provide remuneration recommendations to company Boards. This can involve everything from recommending what the CEO should get paid to helping design and implement company-wide short and long-term incentive plans. I quickly became aware of how important communication skills are, especially to the audience of business decision-makers. We all know that actuaries are “numbers people” but it’s the ability to convey a clear, concise message in layman’s terms to our clients that’s the hard part!

So, what’s next? More exams of course! Having realised how transferrable actuarial skills are, and having come this far to becoming an actuary, becoming a FIAA is my next goal.

slesha.devi@mercer.com

TONY LY

Unlimited soft and succulent pork belly!! Amazeballs!! This was the lunch and dinner served at the professionalism course. Needless to say, this was a great way to start the final chapter of me finally becoming a Fellow.

Sydney Professionalism Course in progress.
Sydney Professionalism Course in progress.

The Melbourne professionalism course was a great experience, which was surprisingly educational and fun at the same time. Who would have thought that those two words could be in the same sentence? Martin Mulcare, the course facilitator, made it his purpose to remember each of our names which made the experience much more personal. However, with such a small group and with Martin remembering each of our names he also ensured that each person would have the chance to speak in front of the group.

Alas, it was my turn under the spotlight when Martin asked me to summarise day one of the course where we learnt about the Code of Conduct, ethical thinking and professional obligations. Immediately coming to my mind was a question that I ask myself at work every day, ‘does it pass the smell test?’

For me, this learning was reinforced from the course and it is something that I use every day in practice. I come from a small actuarial team working for the health insurer BUPA. As we are such a small team I feel like each person is like a mini Appointed Actuary advising the business on all sorts of problems ranging from benefit changes to capital calculations to FCRs.

Each person in the team gets exposure to all other parts of the business and we are highly regarded as a group that produces high quality advice and work. We are often put into a position where we need to ensure the the ‘smell test’ is applied to everything we do and all the advice we give. I love the fact that I am not pigeonholed into one are such as pricing or reserving. I get to deal with all actuarial issues across the board and this is something that I highly regard.

tony.ly@bupa.com.au

YONGJIE QI

“Of course you should know this, you are an actuary…” I always find myself in such conversations with my dad, who likes to assume that I know everything.

I have encountered many similar situations throughout my career where people display this inherent trust that actuaries have all the answers to their problems. This trust was built by the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by generations of actuaries and I consider myself lucky to work in a profession that benefits from this legacy.

Despite graduating from an actuarial studies degree, I started my career in the insolvency industry for 18 months, liquidating companies and bankrupting unlucky people. It didn’t take long for me to realise that it wasn’t a career for me.

I decided to reconnect with the world of actuaries and joined QBE for my first actuarial role. I spent four years at QBE, initially in the product analytics team, and later in the commercial packages team. QBE was a great place to start my actuarial career. It presented invaluable opportunities for me to learn and develop. I made many lifelong friends, with lots of good memories (or, what I could remember of our good times in the pubs).

I then joined The Warranty Group, a Melbourne based niche insurer specialising in warranty, accidental damage and CCI products. Working for a niche insurer proved to be very different from working for a conglomerate. The last three digits are no longer hidden! The working relationships with colleagues from other departments are much closer and efficient, especially when their desks are only a few steps away. But that also means tighter turnaround requirements. Overall, being exposed to other aspects of the insurance business such as operations and sales and has opened up a whole new world for me.

yongjie.qi@thewarrantygroup.com

CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.

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