Wendy Wang, Actuary and avid traveller of Central and South Americas, discusses her international career path, pragmatic life and the importance of a patient mentor in the latest Under the Spotlight profile.

Travelling South America solo after learning Spanish

Summarise yourself in one sentence…
I’m friendly, easygoing, direct, pragmatic.

My interesting/quirky hobbies…
Learning Spanish so that I could (& did) travel solo to remote parts of Central and South America. My teacher lives in Guatemala and we Skype every weekend.

My favourite energetic pursuit…
Home pilates and walks in the local neighbourhood during lockdown.

What gets my goat…
People that over-promise and under-deliver

I became an actuary because…
I enjoyed maths and loathed English classes in high school.

Not many people know this but I…
Talk to myself like a professional-yet-unqualified therapist when I can’t fall asleep

Short description of career…  
I started in actuarial consulting in Sydney with Mercer and KPMG for the variety of work and learning opportunities, and then relocated to Hong Kong in 2012 as a regional corporate actuary with Zurich Life. Having experienced consulting and direct, I took the obvious next step of exploring the reinsurance world with Swiss Re, first on inforce management and then transferring to Beijing in 2019 on pricing innovation for China.

Where I studied to become an actuary and qualifications obtained…
Macquarie University and later FIAA whilst working in Sydney

I am most passionate about…
Making sure a fair and balanced view is heard.

Who has been the biggest influence on my career (and why)…
Jenni Sparks, my patient and pragmatic mentor of five years, via the Institute’s mentoring programme (thank you so much). She prepares me to take new risks even though I love clinging onto my comfort zone, and she broadens my mindset to understand and accept things as they are.

Weekend water sports in Hong Kong

My vision on Asia…
In the insurance context, to develop its own identity on the world stage, and be the heart of step-change innovation rather than incremental enhancements on existing product or processes

My view on cultural differences is…
It could be a source of both joy and frustration, and the difference is own mindset and expectations.  Respect, openness and honesty can go a long way, since most of the time it is unspoken norms and implicit assumptions that get in the way.  When in doubt or concerned, challenge your own assumptions and have a face to face conversation (or video call or phone … just don’t rely on emails)

What would you do or recommend to improve the collaboration with Australia?
With the world embracing Zoom and MS Teams this year, cross location collaboration is becoming smoother and more common.  From study groups and mentoring, to virtual networking drinks or Insights sessions (which we are already having!)

What advice I would give actuaries planning on working in Asia…
If you’re looking for an easier transition, go for international hubs like Hong Kong or Singapore, and/or an internal transfer with your current employer in Australia.  Do your homework and talk to expats based in the location you’re interested in. Otherwise just dive in with an open mind and give yourself at least 12 months to settle in – the work pace is generally faster, things may not be as organised, worse air quality (come on, not many places can beat Australia), and a whole lot more travel opportunities.

My best advice for younger actuaries…
Part III’s are just the beginning, prepare for lifelong learning and stay open-minded as you will eventually be working with people who may not be as technical as actuaries, but bring other strengths to the table.

Read more Under the Spotlight profiles.

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Image of Yannick Even
Yannick Even says

24 July 2020

Great sharing Wendy
Keep being innovative and open minded - we love working with you :)

Image of Hoa Bui
Hoa Bui says

24 July 2020

Great to hear about your journey, Wendy !

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