Under the Spotlight - Asia series - Queenie Choi

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Queenie Choi is an actuary who has recently moved into the NGO space in hopes of making a difference in people's lives. Although this new role demands a different skillset, her passion and extensive experience in health will surely help her vision of helping the less fortunate in Northeast Thailand.

My favourite energetic pursuit...the latest would have to be looking, or chasing rather, after my toddler son

The last book I read (and when)...The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson, an opportunity to reflect how mothers could hold true their value and roles despite the many conflicting perspectives in today’s society.

Why and how I became an actuary...I was always natural at maths in school but it was somewhat by chance that I signed up to the Actuarial program when Prof. Mike Sherris first introduced this to UNSW students. I found the nature of Actuarial work more enjoyable and stimulating than the Accounting major at the time and so it was upon graduation that I chose to embark on an actuarial career.

My work history (and greatest challenges)… I started in life insurance and shortly after qualification moved towards health insurance with hopes of contributing to the provision of affordable and sustainable healthcare cover for various demographics.

For the past 13 years I have undertaken various health roles in Australia and across Asian countries, and the topic has never stopped to fascinate me. The dynamics of health insurance and healthcare services continue to be very interesting and challenging given the interests of various parties involved, not to mention the impact from wider digital development in the industry, requiring actuaries and senior management of this business to appreciate things from various perspectives and to a command multi-disciplinary approach in order to successfully drive a sustainable model. 

What I find most interesting about my current role... At the time of writing I have just started to take time off from full-time actuarial capacity, to join my husband in Thailand running an NGO that focuses on restoring hopes to the neglected children and abandoned elderly people in the rural villages of Northeast Thailand (near the Thai-Laotian border).

This new experience is entirely out of my comfort zone and will certainly demand a different skillset to my actuarial training. It is a vision my husband and I share from early on.

Northeast Thailand is one of the poorest regions in the country and due to poverty neglected children become vulnerable prey to society: teen pregnancies and marriage breakdowns are prevalent, coupled with drug abuse and prostitution, the poverty cycle continues. The Foundation we set up hopes to provide care, opportunity and instill hope to these neglected children, changing lives one at a time.  

At Suwannakuha village, Northeast Thailand

What is your vision on Asia?... Asia has been and will still be the focus of growth for multinational insurers in years to come.  The aging population, growing affluence in some economies and significant emerging customers in others, present a continuous demand for protection of the lives, health and properties of various demographics. 

The insurer’s ability to attract and genuinely cater for the needs of these customers, young and seniors, through quality service has never been more critical.  As there is a digital shift in the way services are delivered, with businesses moving to agile models, it is important that actuaries become more versatile when applying our tradition training to business problems and innovative solutions while maintaining technical veracity, and this is done amidst the growing diversity of expertise in the likes of data science, digital marketing etc.    

My view on cultural differences is…I think we have generally moved towards greater appreciation of cultural differences in the past 20 years with an increase in international working mobility, business or social travels and communications. 

In a work context, it may at times create frustration still however most people working in Asia should be attuned to these differences (and of course Asia itself is made of many cultures), and be able to understand sometimes it is just the way people approach and do things locally. 

Whether in a business or social context, respect for the individuals and their background, will always help build rapport and collaboration. What’s more, it is only helpful if we are able to hear the local perspectives and practices such that we could apply our expertise and knowledge effectively.

The most valuable skill an actuary can possess is … translating actuarial and analytical insights into strategic solutions that deliver value to insurer, insureds and stakeholders concerned

My best advice for younger actuaries… Surely take time to explore different areas of work that will not only expand your skillset and knowledge but help you understand your style and passion for years to come… and perhaps in particular to the Asian environment, besides carrying out the job given, understand how sound decisions should be considered and made, and be able to form and stand by your own opinion.

If I could travel back in time I would…do more travelling!

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About the author

Queenie Choi

Queenie Choi is an actuary specialising in health with 17 years of experience in the insurance industry having undertaken consultant and in-house roles for multinational life and non-life insurers in Australia and across Asia. Her most recent appointment was at AXA Asia as Regional Head, Health & Protection, Pricing & Proposition. Since mid 2017, she is based in Northeast Thailand with her husband running an NGO that focuses on helping the neglected children in the rural region, and consults on actuarial and health projects on part-time basis.

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