I am an Actuary – April 2015
Sacha Fitz Henry
When I was studying actuarial studies at university there were many times (usually after combinatorial probability lectures) that I thought about giving up and doing something easier. So by the time I had finished my degree I definitely didn’t think I would go on to become a Fellow. However, at the time of entering the workforce, jobs were scarce and I was lucky enough to land a role in life consulting at Towers Watson. It was probably the best thing that could have happened.
I soon learned that actuarial work was far more interesting and commercial than statistics tutorials had led me to believe. I worked on a variety of projects and gained broad experience in the industry. I began my Part III’s and decided to specialise in investment management and finance, since I still wasn’t convinced the actuarial life was for me. Studying part time was tough, but I enjoyed the subject matter and I toyed with the idea of moving into investment consulting.
After completing my studies I started working for AMP in their asset liability management team. I like to think of it as a halfway point between an investment and an actuarial role. I love both the technical challenges it presents, as well as collaborating with different teams within the company. I am delighted to be a Fellow of the Institute and am excited about the opportunities it will bring!
At first glance, I’ve followed the “traditional” path to becoming an Actuary. I was good at maths in high school but not really interested in science (which might have led me to a career in engineering), so my careers adviser suggested actuarial studies at university.
After finishing my degree at Macquarie University, I was fortunate enough to start working for Deloitte Actuaries & Consultants. I learnt core technical skills and improved my soft-skills by working with experienced actuaries on a number of traditional and non-traditional projects across life insurance, general insurance, health insurance, superannuation and banking. Here, my communication skills were just as, if not more, important than my technical skills.
After starting my Part III’s, I decided I wanted to specialise in life insurance and started my current job as Assistant Individual Risk Valuation Actuary (what a mouthful!) at TAL. Here my primary role is to assist in the production and communication of monthly, half-yearly and yearly financial reporting and forecasting/budgeting for Individual Risk (and Group Risk on occasion). One of the things I enjoy most is working with other professionals throughout the business (e.g. claim managers) to produce, understand and communicate to management the valuation results.
Although I started my career because I was good at maths I’ve chosen to continue with it because, for me, being an Actuary means I can use my talents for maths and communication to make a difference while pursuing my passion for travel by being able to work anywhere in the world. I can’t wait to see where it takes me – hopefully to the USA next.
I was never the quintessential actuarial student, initially doing a degree in Physiotherapy, then working for almost 10 years and having a family before starting the exams and landing my first actuarial job.
I was often asked ‘why the change?’ given that being an Actuary and a Physiotherapist were so ‘obviously’ different and given my stage of life.
In reality I found that being an Actuary has similar attributes to a Physiotherapist, where I also had to use problem solving skills to deal with complex issues (and complex people) just without being exposed to sweaty backs and smelly feet.
Without my experience as a Physiotherapist (and later Rehabilitation and Claims Management), I would have never had as many opportunities and advantages once I started working in the Life Insurance Industry.
I started my actuarial career at MLC/NAB Wealth working mainly in pricing roles across Group Insurance, Retail Insurance and Retail and Corporate Superannuation products. There I met some great people and learned a great deal, whilst enjoying some new traditions (Golden Century Lobster on FIAA qualification).
I now work at Hannover Life Re, working in pricing and marketing in partnership with a variety of companies and funds who are looking to create effective business solutions in a complex market.
Having come this far the response to the question of changing to become an Actuary is clear. Simply, being an Actuary enables me to use my professional skills (from both professions) to make a significant impact across our industry whilst still being involved in assisting people at their greatest time of need.
I’m both an Actuary and an illustrator and it’s as confusing as it sounds. I’ve been a self-taught artist since before I can remember. I picked up an interest in maths from chatting with my father about science as a kid.
Not having a clear idea of what to do after school I got accepted into UNSW’s Actuarial Co-op scholarship program. I eventually landed in the health consulting practice of PwC. I took a job there so I could work with John Walsh and Sarah Johnson and contribute to their pivotal work on improving Australia’s disability system. It was work that used numbers to make society better. Their ideas were a big part of why the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) became a reality in 2013. Last year I moved across to the NDIS to work directly on the scheme. It’s exciting to know the NDIS will support 420,000 people in a people-centric way and with a strong focus on participant outcomes, financial sustainability and evidence-based policy.
Art is still a big part of my life. I run a clothing line called Que Terror that features my illustrations. Every release tells a story based on life’s contradictions, confusions and heartbreaks. I believe in valuing the good and bad in life as part of one great story to share. It’s inspired heavily by my travels, especially through South America. My newest release La Noche tells the story of a group of children kidnapped by the night-sky (www.QueTerror.com).
I’ve had a couple of interesting roles along my way to becoming an Associate. After completing a mathematics degree and working for a few years I decided to further develop my skills through actuarial studies. Being based in Newcastle I have been able to apply my actuarial learnings in two non-traditional fields, Private Health Insurance and the National Electricity Market (NEM).
I joined the Business Intelligence team at NIB Health Funds in 2009, providing me with my first involvement with the inner workings of the insurance industry. There I gained valuable experience in product pricing, forecasting, estimating liabilities and data/claims analysis techniques.
The NEM is a very dynamic market and a great place for actuarial skills to be applied. As an analyst in the Trading team at Macquarie Generation I was able to provide assistance for spot and contract traders while also analysing drivers of electricity demand, competitor production and potential new business projects. It has been an intriguing time in the NEM with unprecedented falls in demand coinciding with the rise of renewable energy (mainly wind and solar) along with the introduction and removal of a price on carbon emissions. With so many variables influencing electricity supply and pricing it is certainly a field where actuarial skills can add value.
After two very rewarding work experiences on my path to becoming an actuary, I am excitedly looking forward to the opportunities that may lie ahead in the future.
Based in Singapore, I currently work as a consultant in PwC’s South East Asia Consulting business specialising in the actuarial banking space. I also have involvement in a broad mix of consulting projects that range from business operations procurement for a mining company to market entry strategies for an insurance company. Our firm is focused on delivering value for clients across the South East Asia region.
My primary capability area is actuarial banking. It’s a growing area which has gained greater prominence in the broader market as well as the actuarial trade in recent years. Stakeholders in the financial services space – including banks and regulators alike – have realised the importance of good risk management and governance. As an Actuary in this area, I have worked alongside teams of accountants, mathematicians and other quantitative modellers in a range of projects including credit risk and economic capital at banks. Furthermore, to respond to the growth, the South African Actuarial Society has developed a new banking fellowship core course which will be implemented in 2016, and possibly at a later stage in Australia.
It has been a long but rewarding journey from the time I started with the Part I courses at UNSW. This journey has taken me through a number of areas including general insurance, banking, data analytics and investments, as well as working physically across the Asia-Pacific to deliver work globally. As a new Fellow of the Institute, I am immensely proud of our profession and the enviable reputation we have in the wider business world as respected and capable professionals.
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