This month’s I am an Actuary demonstrates how becoming an Actuary opens up global opportunities, across a variety of sectors.
I’ve always been capable at mathematics – having a maths tutor since third grade will do that to you. As I turned the corner into my final year of high school, I applied to study actuarial science and here we are. I moved to Sydney the following year, started my degree at UNSW, and have been blessed with a plethora of exciting opportunities since.
In my first year, I was able to study Chinese economics in Shanghai and later intern at AXA’s Data Innovation Lab in Paris. There, I learnt about the exciting role of telematics in pricing insurance and conducted my own research into real-time driving behaviours, eventually coding up my theories into scoring algorithms.
The following year, I spent a summer term studying corporate finance and psychology at Columbia University.
I felt inspired walking down the same halls as Barrack Obama and Warren Buffet had once done and mentally nourished by the renowned academics I learnt from.
I finished the year with a semester in Connecticut experiencing American college life.
I then rounded out my actuarial degree by studying macroeconomics at LSE and taking up a research position within the actuarial faculty at UNSW.
All these experiences had the effect of giving me a deep global perspective in work, academia, culture, and the wider economy. I have developed a love of travel and meeting wonderful people from diverse backgrounds, which is perfect for my current role as a consultant in EY’s General Insurance practice.
At EY, I am surrounded by colleagues from all over the world and love learning from different individuals in their approach to work and life. I have worked on numerous engagements, ranging from costing compulsory schemes to valuing potential legal liabilities I am excited for what the future holds.
Throughout my careers (note plural) I have always been interested in applying maths to solve problems. When I was at school and university I took combinations of maths and science subjects. I ended up completing a PhD in biochemistry, but with a mathematical modelling slant, to help explain the way calcium induces potassium transport across red blood cell membranes.
I then moved to the UK, fitting statistical models to large biochemical data sets to explain the variation across metabolic profiles from blood and urine samples for those who were at risk of developing diabetes, at Imperial College London. I returned to Australia with a desire to build a career for myself in science, but in every job I took I seemed to get more out of mathematical modelling than the lab work. After a few twists and turns, I found myself living in Melbourne, and despite having three kids (including a surprise set of twins!), I took a break from work for a while.
Taking a bit of a plunge, I enrolled in a 2-year Masters of Actuarial science course at Melbourne Uni. I found the application of maths to financial problems absolutely fascinating, and pushed forward from there. I managed to convince the good people at Quantium to take me on as a career re-starter, and they supported me through my actuarial exams over the next five years or so. Now KPMG have given me a fantastic opportunity to broaden my experience and apply data analytics and modelling techniques to a whole new range of problems.
Having a solid foundation in actuarial techniques (and being able to put “Actuary” on the CV section of client proposals) is such a bonus. I’m consistently pleased at how many doors it seems to open for me.
Being an actuary is much more than just a job. It has given me opportunities to live in new countries, meet impressive people (in both their technical abilities and human spirit), and even pursue my life-long dream of becoming a ski instructor.
I have spent almost 6 years working in the actuarial consulting team at PwC starting out in Sydney and moving to Singapore in 2015. Most of my work experience is in banking credit risk models (Basel II & IFRS 9) – and boy has it been busy!
The first week I arrived in Singapore I was asked to go to Vietnam for a due diligence project. Imagine trying to decipher spreadsheets in Vietnamese, squatting in the streets eating Banh Mi in full corporate attire, and the surprise when coming back from lunch to see the whole floor asleep around the office for afternoon naptime.
From there, I Marie Kondo’d my life and spent over a year living out of a suitcase working between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok.
My most important life experiences are attributable in one way or another to the kindness of my actuarial peers: Growing professionally within a collaborative environment of sharing tips on SAS or stakeholder management; Partners who allowed me to take two years off to backpack and live in eternal winter as a ski instructor, then come back and move quickly to the eternal summer of our Singapore office. Now facing a move to the rural outskirts of Shanghai, I am reminded again of the strength of the actuarial community with offers of help to connect with our peers in China.
Being an actuary is about the world of opportunities afforded to you and, in turn, to always remember to pay it forward!
I am an Actuarial consultant at EY. But there was a time not too long ago when I only had a vague impression of what an actuary was.
As high school rolled to a close, I was quite clueless as to what I wanted to be. My consultation with friends, family and our school’s career advisor amounted to a spur of the moment decision in putting Actuarial Studies as my top course preference. Fast forward a year and I was knee deep in statistics and finance textbooks at UNSW.
During the second year of my degree I picked up a part-time role at IAG, working in the claim lodgements team for personal motor and property insurance. Although I had initially taken on this role to fund my travelling aspirations, it soon led me to discover a passion for the general insurance industry.
This passion continued to grow in my third year when I moved into the role of an Actuarial Analyst at the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). I was fortunate to work alongside some very passionate and experienced actuaries in monitoring the scheme’s rollout.
After spending my final semester of university studying abroad in Amsterdam, I joined the Actuarial Services team at EY as a graduate. Nine months in and I’ve worked with some incredibly talented people on an expansive variety of projects including data analytics, process management and actuarial valuations.
Looking back, I am very grateful that my spontaneous decision led me down this challenging yet rewarding journey. I am excited to continue refining my interests and furthering my professional development as I progress towards Fellowship.
My dream of pursuing a career as a neurosurgeon came to a grinding halt after high school when my application for admission to the University of Zimbabwe’s College of Health Sciences was unsuccessful. I accepted the university’s consolation offer to study Mathematics and Statistics instead. With the benefit of hindsight, this was a blessing in disguise as I comfortably developed a passion for this program and realised that exploring mathematical concepts at this level came naturally to me.
After completing my undergraduate studies, I began searching for the next challenging pursuit and came across Actuarial Science. 2008 marked the beginning of an exciting journey as I started attempting my Foundation exams with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (then known as the Institute of Actuaries). It took me some time to realise that I was striving to be an Actuary as opposed to the intuitive but non-existent designation of Actuarial Scientist.
A move to South Africa in 2010 necessitated a change in my professional body to the Actuarial Society of South Africa. In 2016, I migrated to Australia and once again changed my professional body to the Institute of Actuaries of Australia who ushered me through the Actuary program. Over the years, I have occupied various roles which include Employee Benefits Consultant, Claims Administrator, Statistical Analyst, Reporting Analyst and Actuarial Analyst.
Now – a decade, three countries, two continents and three actuarial professional bodies later – I am elated at reaching this milestone. I am currently an Associate in Mercer’s Institutional Wealth business based in Adelaide. Special mention goes to my wife and son who remain the proverbial giants on whose shoulders I stand.
Running and reading novels are my favourite pastimes. My three best books of all time are Things Fall Apart, Twelfth Night and Nineteen Eighty-Four.
While attending the Professionalism course in November it struck me how diverse a career as an “actuary” could be.
We had people from all over the profession speaking to us on diverse topics and their career journeys – anything spanning from Appointed Actuary roles to Strategy and Product roles.
Like many others in the room, I found it interesting to hear how classical actuarial techniques and ways of thinking could be applied to diverse and meaningful problems.
Currently, I am a consultant in a non-traditional actuarial team in EY, based primarily in the Banking and Capital Markets space. I say non-traditional because in other parts of the world this team is known as Quantitative Advisory Services and, typically, they hire people from Maths, Physics, Statistics and even Computer Science backgrounds. It’s a great team, comprised of individuals with diverse skillsets, backgrounds and interests. I am able to work across multiple projects, as part of a global firm, with actuaries and non-actuaries alike.
Reflecting on my own (albeit short) career, I can see how my actuarial education has afforded me broad and interesting experiences thus far. I’ve had the opportunity to work in business and retail banking, general and life insurance, general industrial company strategy and had exposure to complex company transactions. With my “actuarial” skillset I’ve been able to work across the country, consulting on different projects – and I hope sometime soon to work overseas.
As an international student, my adventure in Australia started with a university foundation program (Year 12 equivalent) with a conditional offer for an Accounting degree. I lived in a homestay where the child of the owner happened to be an actuarial student approaching graduation. It was the very first time that I had heard of the profession ‘Actuary’ and it didn’t take me long to decide to change my degree to join in this profession. So the word of mouth did work on me.
After completing my honours year, I was fortunate enough to get into a PhD program at UNSW where I started doing research and publishing papers on financial decision making in retirement. I found my passion in helping retirees to achieve adequate retirement income while maintaining flexibility and financial security.
In 2017, I made a move to the corporate world to take a position at First State Super which offers a great platform to utilise my expertise. My current role is responsible for the retirement strategy of the fund and I am very excited about the opportunity to improve the retirement outcomes of hundreds of thousands of members. My daily work at First State Super provides me the exposure to a wide range of activities such as investment management, product design and contributing to public policy discussion. Solving the retirement challenge requires efforts from multiple aspects.
I think actuaries who collectively have the expertise in managing both assets and liabilities are well positioned to make a great contribution to tackling the retirement challenge that many countries are facing.
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