I am an Actuary – September 2015

Deciding which direction to take your career path in can be tricky, especially when faced with the mysterious intersection of mathematics, insurance and actuarial studies. We asked six qualified practitioners how they came to be actuaries and why they love their work.

Angelika Fleer

My pathway to become an actuary is far from the traditional way. After completing a mathematics degree in my home town in Germany (with a one year break in Melbourne to write my thesis), I worked as an IT Consultant traveling Europe. As good as it sounded at the time, I realised that I needed a bit more stability in my life and started working for the German Finance Department as an auditor for corporate superannuation liabilities.

“But after two years of intense study doing Part 1 and Part 2 exams, I am really excited to finally call myself an actuary.”

After four years the travel bug hit again and I moved to Australia determined to travel the whole country. After a few month I found an actuarial analyst role with AMP and scrapped my travel plans to grab this once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only did I finally find an answer to the question “what does an actuary actually do?” I also got the opportunity to stay in Australia indefinitely.

I quickly understood that becoming an actuary means sacrificing your private life to study. But after two years of intense study doing Part 1 and Part 2 exams, I am really excited to finally call myself an actuary.

Going forward I will continue my rather non-traditional path, working as a pricing specialist for Telstra. This role is halfway between a technical data analytics function, dealing with complex pricing model and big data, and a strategic function communicating results and ideas to various stakeholders across the marketing and product area. I am very excited about my new role and am truly looking forward to enjoy an Australian summer without studying.

 

Kelly Lee

Fear. That was the driving force for me becoming an actuary. It certainly isn’t something that you hear often. Growing up, I had every intention of becoming a surgeon until a fateful night watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The blood was the all-telling sign that I should reconsider my career options.*

Fast forward some years and here I am calling myself an actuary – a job which is intellectually stimulating, involves constant problem solving and no blood! I am currently working at PwC and have been lucky enough to do so for the last three years. I graduated from the ANU with my honours in Actuarial Studies, and landed my first job with WorkCover SA (now known as ReturnToWorkSA). It provided me with a glimpse into the Accident Compensation industry in which I now specialise in, and of course a break from the awful Canberra winters!

During my three years with WorkCover SA, I learnt about the workings of a Workers Compensation scheme, from the time a claim is lodged up to the settlement of a claim. This provided me with a strong basis in the next step of my career with PwC, providing consulting advice on Accident Compensation.

Fast forward some years and here I am calling myself an actuary – a job which is intellectually stimulating, involves constant problem solving and no blood!

I really enjoy working in this industry as I feel like I am making a difference (albeit indirectly) to people who have been unfortunate to get injured whether at work or otherwise.

It’s been a great ride. In my downtime, I enjoy baking. There’s nothing like having a blood orange flavoured cake, or using beetroots to make intensely coloured Red Velvet cakes. I’d like to think I’ve conquered my fear. I still have not finished watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though.

*Some parts of this article are about as real as Fargo’s claim to be a true story.

Hao Qiu

Gordon Coventry’s AFL record of 1299 career goals stood for 62 years until it was finally broken by Tony Lockett in 1999. HaoQui

My family and I moved to Melbourne while I was still in primary school. At the time, I was a shy and chubby kid faced with the daunting task of trying to make a whole bunch of new friends. Naturally to try and fit in with my new school buddies, I tried to learn about their interests – this happened to be AFL football. They started by teaching me the rules and letting me join the school footy team. This was all it took to ignite a passion in me for both football and funnily enough, numbers. Soon I was regularly visiting the library to read about all the famous players and their records, including the wonderfully useless stat above.

This was all it took to ignite a passion in me for both football and funnily enough, numbers.

Since then, I have completed an Actuarial & Information Systems degree and worked briefly at IBM before joining PwC’s Actuarial team in Melbourne. At PwC my main focus has been the different aspects of accident compensation. This has involved working with general insurers to assess their claim liabilities and building performance monitoring tools to help them understand the key drivers behind their business.

Meanwhile I’ve also found time for football, recently competing with the China AFL team in the International Cup. When I’m not playing footy, I’ll either be watching it or poring over my next fantasy footy trade.

So I can now finally call myself an actuary. Maybe this is a sign that I should put all my focus into becoming the best actuary I can be. Then again, maybe it’s not too late to make the AFL…

Murray Staff

I’ve taken a long non-traditional journey to become an actuary working in a non-traditional area. I studied civil engineering at the University of Queensland because people (who had no business giving me career advice) said that if I studied maths I could only become a maths teacher. My undergraduate thesis measured the effects of El Nino on storm waves in Queensland. Around this time I was looking into the actuarial world and realised that, given my thesis topic, the move to the insurance world wasn’t such a big leap. Once I started working in the engineering industry I realised that it wasn’t very mathematically challenging so I started my Part I exams.

Youi is data driven and looks to the actuarial department to provide insights in all parts of the business.

My first actuarial role was at Suncorp in the home insurance team. A few years later I got a job at Youi on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It’s been amazing to see the growth of the business over the last few years and the actuarial team has played a pivotal role in this. Youi is data driven and looks to the actuarial department to provide insights in all parts of the business.

I’ve recently moved into the Youi’s marketing department which I guess is a non-traditional sector for actuaries. My main interest is the world of statistical modelling and data mining and how it can be applied to any problem where data is available. Maybe one day I’ll enter a Kaggle data mining competition just to tick it off the bucket list!

Dan Wang

I always enjoy explaining to my colleagues what actuaries do. People even ask me: Do you do archery? My career so far has involved telling stories from numbers. It was a great experience to attend the Professionalism Course. Finally I can call myself an actuary (AIAA). Yes!

I started my career as a financial planner in Canberra. I was lucky enough to serve 92 sophisticated investors. I utilised the control cycle to project and review clients’ holistic financial position. This important skill I learned from Part 2 and it has helped my clients understand the big picture and make optimal long term investment decisions. I also learned about life insurance and investment products from a sales perspective.

I always enjoy explaining to my colleagues what actuaries do. People even ask me: Do you do archery?

I have been working as an actuarial analyst at Australian Unity Investments since LAGIC was introduced. Getting this actuarial job was one of the happiest moments in my life. It has been a great learning experience to work closely with the experienced actuaries and investment managers in a small team environment. My main responsibilities involve monitoring and reporting on the financial positions of funds specifically in relation to their target capital levels. I also contribute to the asset and liability investment management of these funds. I enjoy working collaborative with a variety of teams, and communicating key results to all levels of management. It has become clear to me that the actuarial skills I have acquired can make a significant impact on business decisions.

I continue to study towards the Fellowship. There is no doubt that attending the Fellowship and Graduation Dinner will be my next happiest moment.

Jeremiah Cheung

I started my journey towards becoming an actuary back in 2009 in the University of Melbourne due to my curiosity for numbers. When I graduated in 2013, the job market was bleak. I was fortunate to secure a contract Actuarial Analyst in The Warranty Group. I then realised that an actuary deals with more than numbers – understanding the implications of the analysis and devising follow-up actions are also important.

I am blessed to work in a team which encourages all round development.

Having worked in the small niche insurer, I had the privilege of grasping the full range of issues faced by the business. It also enabled me to see the whole change process: From making claims cost analysis and projections; recommending on utilising a particular settlement option; seeing it discussed in committee meetings; and finally effectively implemented. This certainly helped lay a good foundation of building my skills in an actuarial reserving role.

One year later, I joined the IAG Reserving Team in Melbourne. I am responsible for Workers Comp reserving, short tail valuations and actuarial data integrity processes. These led me to understand and develop the differing skills required for valuing uncertain cash flows with diverse natures. I am blessed to work in a team which encourages all round development.

Beside work, I am actively involved in church, such as playing piano in praise and worship and leading Bible study. Church life is important to me, not only because of religious beliefs but also being part of a community where everyone comes together and contributes for mutual benefit. With the same spirit, I look forward to serving the wider actuarial community once I complete my final examination.

 

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