I am an Actuary – September 2016

Martin Mulcare presents the most recent instalment of the popular I am an Actuary series. In this article, seven young actuaries share personal experiences of their actuarial journey.

 

John ChanJohn-Chan-bw

“Why do we need to go through the pain to do part 3 and becoming a Fellow if you are not working in the traditional actuarial fields where actuarial advice is required by regulation? Is being an ‘actuary’ enough?” This was one of the openly discussed questions raised at the Professionalism Course.

I am a Consultant at NAB working in the Deposits Product Portfolio Management and Analytics Team, supporting Pricing, Corporate and Wholesale segments. My current role gives me an excellent opportunity to expose myself to a wider range of stakeholders. I am enjoying this as I am facing new challenges and learning new banking products. The grounding from core technical and Control Cycle studies allows me to provide insightful analytics and demonstrate risk management and governance to drive effective business decisions.

I continue to develop new skills and capabilities through interesting projects and to collaborate with different expertise from Strategy, Product and Distribution areas in the Bank.  I am spending more of my time working on PowerPoint presentation packs and interacting and presenting with various stakeholders. On the other hand I am also learning new tools like Tableau and SAS to support my analytical work.

Back to the original question, how do actuaries bring value to the non-traditional world? Build your brand as an actuary in the business. What differentiates us is our strong footing in professional values, behaviour and accountability. One of our guest speakers, Tim Gorst, proposed that to be successful you must package yourself to show your ability to bring value to the business and also be accountable for what is required of your role.  The other crucial capability is presenting with impact to your stakeholders and Rebecca Stowe provided a live demonstration at her session.

I strongly believe the ability to keep technical and complex things simple, together with our integrity and professional capabilities, enhances the value of actuaries to our businesses and industries.

 

Caroline Chen

Caroline-Chen-bw

I am a Lecturer in Finance at the RMIT University. I obtained my PhD in Finance from the University of Queensland and worked there as a Lecturer in Finance before joining RMIT. I started my journey of becoming an actuary at the Australian National University and graduated from ANU with a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies and a Master of Actuarial Studies in addition to a Bachelor of Commerce and a Master of Finance. Having recently qualified as an Associate, I have decided to keep pursuing the actuarial qualification (FIAA) while working as a finance academic.

Unlike most actuaries working in academia, I teach finance and do research in the field of finance rather than the traditional areas of actuarial studies.  However, nowadays interdisciplinary research is an important trend and boundaries between disciplines are increasingly blurring, particularly for finance and actuarial studies, two very closely related disciplines.  In fact, to address many complicated issues, it requires inputs from multiple disciplines, professions and industry groups. For example, there is huge potential for the collaboration of actuarial studies and finance when analysing the implications of climate change. Having been undertaking research in the area of corporate finance with a good track record in publishing, I have recently extended my research to the area of environmental finance.  I feel my actuarial-finance background benefits my research by providing a broader view and fresh research ideas.

It is a great honour and privilege to be part of the profession. I highly value the opportunity to become an actuary and believe it is really worthwhile to spend time on actuarial training while pursuing my academic career.

 

Lauretta Karreman

Lauretta-Karreman-bw

Like most who end up in this field, I did not grow up wanting to be an Actuary.   To be honest, I did not know what an Actuary was and fell into that large group of people who give the questionable nod when you tell them about it.  However, after a friend told me she was going to apply to study Actuarial Science, I thought ‘I like maths, let’s give it a go’.

At the end of 2011 I completed my Bachelor in Actuarial Science at Curtin University and started work at HBF as a Business Analyst not too long after.   During this time I had the opportunity to work with many business areas and realised my true passion of using data to make strategic and effective business decisions. 

I have since moved to Melbourne where I am a Growth Consultant at Forethought, a brand growth firm.  We solve challenges for ambitious brands by using science to understand consumer behaviour and decisions. In this role I work with clients to understand and solve their growth challenges through leveraging data insights.  This role has shown me how the skills we learn in preparation to become an Actuary can be applied to a broad range of jobs and industries.

I hope throughout my career I can help in making all businesses and industries see the benefits of employing an Actuary.

 

Mingyuan GuanMing-Guan-bw

I love being an actuary. It allows me to use my talents and have a meaningful and positive impact. I would like to think that I am actually helping people, and the business, by participating in high-level business decision-making and solving real problems.

I have been working in personal insurance pricing for several years. General insurance pricing is always challenging as future losses and expenses need to be estimated and no-one can really know the future with certainty. The only thing that seems certain is that our assumptions will be wrong. Therefore, I recognise the importance of business knowledge to balance the technical aspects of the job. One of the key skills I value in this context  is the ability to explain complex technical matters in a non-technical manner to those without an actuarial background.

I am currently applying analytics in a general insurance corporate, which is normally considered to be a non-traditional area for actuaries. Personally, I am always excited by the insights gained from data and have a view that the core actuarial skill set is highly relevant to the world of analytics. In the future, there will be far more opportunities for actuaries to utilise their skills in different areas such as pricing, claims, customer behaviour, marketing, operations and HR.

Apart from having to study for exam preparation, the other important hobby for me is skiing. Sometimes, I do find it quite difficult to prioritise between skiing and studying, especially when the winter season starts. My skiing style is to “go hard” on “double black diamond” runs and off-piste skiing. I always try to push the boundaries and embrace any challenges. It is all about confidence and courage.

One of my life goals is to ski all around the world and ultimately become the best skier within the actuarial society and the best actuary among all the ski experts.

 

Queenie Chow Queenie-Chow-bw

After having finished my double degree majoring in Actuarial Studies and Spanish (!), I started my career in corporate superannuation services with Russell Investments. As part of an actuarial consulting team in Melbourne, I was given the great opportunity to work in various engaging assignments. These ranged from traditional retirement work such as managing defined benefit liabilities and fund modelling to performing analysis on insurance tenders and unit pricing arrangements.

Unlike the typical actuary profile, I would describe myself as a ‘risk-lover’. I love adventures and, above all, I love travelling. I have previously had the valuable experience of living in France, Mexico, Hong Kong and West Africa. Late last year, through the network of Actuaries Without Borders® (AWB), I had the exciting opportunity of working voluntarily with a senior actuary with her own consulting business in Togo (West Africa) and also the Executive Director of AWB. My actuarial skill-set was warmly welcomed and I cannot describe the sense of fulfilment and reward one receives working as an actuary in global development.

The humble experience in Togo opened up new doors to the boundless world of micro-insurance and managing risk for the underserved. I now have the privilege of working as an Impact Insurance Fellow with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the oldest agency of the United Nations. This 2-year fellowship program provides me with the valuable opportunity of applying my actuarial expertise in developing insurance solutions for low-income markets and supporting innovation projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. What an honour to be able to use my actuarial technical expertise to serve the public well-being from Nairobi, Kenya! 

As I embark on this challenging venture of micro-insurance, I am thrilled at how the skill-set of an actuary can have a positive impact in the lives of the low-income population in developing countries.

 

Rae Gao

Rae-Gao-bw

There were two simple reasons why I chose Actuarial Studies. I was pretty good at maths, and ‘it’s all about the money money money’. To be completely honest, I did not know much about the profession other than it being highly selective. I consulted my only source of information, a family friend who dropped out of actuarial studies after first year in university. Needless to say the advice I received was not entirely encouraging. Despite all this, I went through with it. I am very glad now that I can call myself an actuary (AIAA).

I joined Coles Insurance three years ago. I considered myself very fortunate to start off my career with a start-up company. I had the opportunity to work on many cross function projects, such as signing off on marketing materials, designing underwriting criteria, creating customer contact strategies and identifying fraudulent claims. I am fascinated by how much a start-up challenger can disrupt the market, and am proud to be part of the journey. Coles Insurance was later acquired by IAG, and this new experience helped me realise working as an actuaries had a much bigger responsibility. IAG’s motto is to make the world a safer place and the professionalism course has helped me join the dots. 

So it is like Jessie J says, it’s not about the money money money. I (being an actuary) want to make the world safer. Forget about the hourly rate we charge.

I would like to end my bio with a personal interest to show that I have a life outside of my ‘modelling’ career. I enjoy yoga and am seriously considering a side career path as a yoga instructor. I am a strong believer of the healing effect of yoga, especially during the traumatising exam periods.

 

Tom BlandTom-Bland-bw

Why did I become an actuary? I think my answer to this question would be largely the same as most people who became an actuary: attractive pay; mathematical base; differentiate oneself. The more interesting question for me, in these times where opportunities abound and individuals rarely stay put for long, is why do I remain an actuary?

My first three years in the actuarial space have been incredibly exciting. I started my career for two and half years at EY in Melbourne in the Actuarial – Banking and Capital Markets team. During this time I was exposed to a wide range of interesting challenges across the broad scope of banking from Regulatory and Accounting requirements across Credit, Market and Operational Risk as well as looking at the Enterprise Risk Management as a whole.

This lead to the opportunity to join the EY London firm early this year and since this move I have spent a lot of time all over Asia on multiple engagements around IFRS9.

Why do I stay in this space and, more importantly, why do I believe being an actuary is important for this? First the opportunities that our quantitative background gives us are unbounded. More and more, clients are looking for individuals with a proper quantitative background to add value to their business. Additionally, being an actuary gives us the ability to communicate complex ideas which is invaluable and I have found this to be one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of the job.

Ultimately, I feel like being an actuary gives us the greatest potential to take advantage of the huge range of opportunities that are emerging. Additionally I have also found my actuarial training to be hugely beneficial for my role running a non for profit choir called Polyphonic Voices.

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