I am an Actuary – October 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. Martin Mulcare asks five qualified practitioners how they came to be actuaries and why they love their work.

Kim HoddinottKim Hoddinott

My path to the actuarial Professionalism Course has been longer than planned.  I completed my commerce degree at Melbourne and, due to the consolidation of general insurers in Australia, after five years I had worked for three different companies.  My passion has always been to travel, so having experience in a number of different companies gave me confidence to believe I could work overseas.

I moved to the UK in 2005, and found a job which expanded my work experience to include reserving as well as pricing.   Leaving Australia also changed my priorities. Being in the UK provided many opportunities for travel, seeing different cultures and, as a bonus, I also met my (now) husband.   The last few roles I held in the UK were more commercial where my actuarial background was not required; however it did add value in having a better understanding of the business.

Recently we decided to move back to Australia – taking a year and half travelling through Europe and Asia on the way.  Since arriving home I’ve taken the opportunity to progress my studies and try a different career direction within PwC.

I’ve been an Associate for a number of years, however in the UK the Associate qualification is not fully understood and, irrespective of experience, you don’t gain the same respect or opportunities as a Fellow.  On the way back to Australia I explored opportunities in Asia, and was informed that Fellowship is required regardless of work experience.  So, in order to open more opportunities in the future my goal is to achieve the final step to become a Fellow.

 

Bruce LiBruce Li

I have always felt that there are two types of people who follow the actuarial path: a mathematician who wants to become a business person; and a business person who aspires to be a mathematician. For me, I am firmly in the latter camp, and rumour has it that Warren Buffet was a keen actuarial learner himself.

Having coming from a non-math background and mostly studying part-time, I spent 10 years becoming an Associate. One thing I remembered most vividly was back in my early university days at UNSW. It was a dark and cold night after a late lecture, I caught a bus back to the city, questioning the wisdom of doing something I am not particularly good at (the lecture was about survival models). Then I saw a young man leaning against the seats, looking sheepish and somewhat baffled, with a huge book titled Quantum Mechanics tucked under his arm. I instantly felt a lot better and never doubted myself about the path I was heading. 

I worked for Westpac for the past ten years, mainly in risk management. Although it is not considered a typical actuarial profession, it nonetheless employs a great deal of actuarial skills: translating numbers into business intelligence and making sense of uncertainty, and providing risk mitigating tools. To my surprise I came across quite a few actuaries in different fields within the bank. Every actuary I met, without exception, would afford me professional courtesy and I believe that it is because of the gruelling experience we share that produces mutual respect.

Right now I am taking on a new role after I co-founded a peer-to-peer lending platform in China. It is an entirely different direction I am embarking but, who knows, if someone with a non-math background like me can become an Associate, it just might be possible to make my start-up into something worthwhile. At least I think Warren would agree. 

 

Susannah Lock Susannah

I am located in Adelaide, where we have a relatively tiny actuarial population. Therefore as a statistics graduate I was ecstatic to be offered an analytical role at Mercer in superannuation consulting, primarily conducting defined benefit fund valuations. Being in a small local team presented a great learning experience for me as I was able to prepare work for a number of clients in a variety of industries. Each fund has its own intricacies and specific benefit arrangements, providing an endless array of analytical and programming challenges. 

Later I moved into general insurance at RAA Insurance (RAAI), where I am still based today, currently in the role of Pricing Manager. Initially this was quite a different experience as there was no internal actuarial team, with RAAI dealing with interstate consultants. I considered this an exciting opportunity, as I was able to bring unique analytical skills to the company, with the expectation of gradually carrying out more actuarial work in-house. Despite the physical separation, I have still had the benefit of valuable mentoring from our consulting actuaries. This has enabled me to continue developing my skills and understanding of actuarial techniques and remain connected to the actuarial community.

Finally completing the Professionalism Course and reaching Associate status is a long over-due milestone for me… My first Part 1 exam was back in 2004 (eeeek!!). I have certainly taken the ‘slow and steady’ approach to my studies so it feels good to have some formal recognition. I look forward to building on my learnings and capabilities in the future and know I will be doing so with guidance and encouragement from my peers within the actuarial profession, of which I am proud to be a member.

 

Shireen Singhal Shireen

As with many actuaries, I didn’t grow up harboring dreams of being one, but rather fell into the profession when I applied for the UNSW Co-op Scholarship at the end of high school. Even during the program there was many a time that led me to question if the long road to becoming qualified was something that was right for me. After all, did I really want to spend my days crunching numbers in a spreadsheet?

It wasn’t until I actually worked in the industry during my Co-op internships that I realised that an actuary is so much more than that. The way we think and are trained to use data to give real business insights makes actuaries invaluable decision makers. After gaining a breadth of experience

Allianz has given me the amazing opportunity to work across capital modelling, short tail classes and CTP research. The diversity of the work I encountered in each team is testament to the wide applicability of the actuarial skillset. I am now focusing on continuing to hone this skillset as part of the Pricing Analytics team, where every day is about innovation.

In the coming years I would love to take my career overseas to the European market, combining my work with my love of travel.

It’s crazy to think that my actuarial journey began with a spontaneous scholarship application in high school, proving the best decisions in life can be made in a heartbeat – and I’ve never looked back!

 

Arian Yeganeh Arian

Let me start off by saying how honoured I am to be invited to write about my journey. It has not been an easy road but I am very glad and privileged to finally call myself an Actuary.

My journey started like many of you. I went to Uni, studied hard and did my best not to fall sleep in statistics lectures. However, my journey took a turn when I started a part-time job at a start-up company called Quantium. At that time my role was to test general insurance pricing bots but slowly I was exposed to a whole new industry called data analytics. I did not know what I was getting myself into but I quickly fell in love with the industry and the range of problems I was able to solve using my actuarially trained mind.

I often wonder what life would have been like if I did not come across data analytics and instead worked in a traditional actuarial role. I keep going back to a piece of advice I received before graduating, which was to continually optimise my career around passion, skill and market. Firstly, I knew I had the passion for data analytics as it allowed me to be creative in solving a wide variety of problems. Secondly, I was lucky enough to have developed the required skills by doing actuarial studies. And lastly, I’ve been fortunate that the market for data analytics was, and is, currently booming and providing more opportunities for growth.

So there you have it. I’m an actuary who “took a punt” and took the road less travelled. Whether I do go back to a traditional role or not, I will always be honoured and grateful for being part of the Institute and being known as an Actuary.

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