In this edition of ‘I am an Actuary’ Amar Patel, Clement Peng, Fu Yuan Tan, Gabriella Dixon, Jessica Chen, Kushal Mithal and Nikki Cornwell delve into their journey into the profession and discuss their interests and future goals. 

Amar Patel

As I progress through the early stages of my actuarial career, I have found that there is always something new to learn and interesting problems to solve. The path of an actuary is certainly not a dull one. I am excited by how our technical skills can be utilised to solve a range of different problems. In particular, members of our profession are addressing problems impacting society such as climate change or economic/health inequities.

I hope to use my technical skills to help tackle these types of problems as my career develops.

Even though it can sometimes feel like an ever-spinning hamster wheel of exams and study, the ability to apply these techniques and leverage data to support effective decision making and better outcomes is what makes me believe that it is very much worth it!

I have been fortunate to work with some smart and savvy people. As an intern at Quantium and then within the analytics team at Guild Insurance, I have found myself always learning from those around me.

The supportive environment at Guild has meant that I have been able to continue progress towards my qualification while finding a good balance between work and study.

This theme of support is extended throughout the profession and I have found actuaries to be a wonderful bunch of people who enjoy a range of interests. It seems that everyone has their own unique passions whilst at the same time we can all relate to common interests whether it be an Excel shortcut or travel! Coming from New Zealand, the chance to explore Melbourne and regional Victoria has been amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed my career so far and I am excited by the opportunities that lie ahead.

Gabriella Dixon

When I first heard about Actuarial Science, I was completely uninterested in studying anything relating to statistics. At that point in my schooling career, mathematics was the only component in STEM that interested me. In Year 11, I participated in Bond University’s Student for a Semester, completing the Quantitative Methods subject. Whilst I loved the experience, this affirmed my disinterest in doing a statistical course.

However, towards the end of my final year at school, I was awarded a scholarship to attend Bond University, so I decided to reconsider Actuarial Science after hearing about the amazing opportunities presented with this fast-tracked degree. I began my studies, majoring in Finance and Big Data, in January 2019 and the following two years were a whirlwind of forming lifelong friends, memories and experiences.

I loved every minute of my degree so much, even during the crazy periods, that I have continued studying with Bond University and the Institute of Actuaries of Australia, undertaking my Part II’s, to receive the ‘Actuary’ designation.

I have completed internships with KordaMentha, within their Forensic team, and Deloitte, whilst being mentored by a Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting, who specialises in restructuring. In March 2022, I will begin a Graduate Analyst role with Deloitte in their Analytics & AI Consulting team. These experiences have opened my eyes to the many pathways I can follow according to my interests and passions, stemming from my studies.

In the meantime, I am continuing to enjoy the process of becoming part of the actuarial community and learning more about the profession I am so interested in.

My future plans include studying a Masters’ degree at an internationally recognised school in either the United States or United Kingdom, as I look to expand my global network. 

Clement Peng

I am a compliance officer with a bank by day and a master chef by night, where I used statistical analysis to find out the best temperature for cooking hotpot within 99% CI. Why am I still bothering to become an Actuary? Simply because my dad asked me to do it as being an actuary is still highly regarded and a very prestigious profession in China.

I am a cool kid (or non-conventional) in the actuarial world. I was born and raised in northern China and moved to Australia during my teenage years. I attended high school in Melbourne.

Along my educational and professional journey, I have obtained a Bachelor of Commerce (Actuarial Studies) from the University of Melbourne, following which I joined the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) as part of the graduate program in 2010. There I started my career in data analytics by developing a range of processes in SAS and SQL to extract complex data. This has improved the efficiency of statistical analysis and the publications of APRA reports including the Review of Claims Trends for Liability Insurance in Australia which was presented at the General Insurance Seminar. In the interim, I truly mastered the concept of the Actuarial Control Cycle after a couple of repeats.

I am a late bloomer actuary as I eventually got some time (or courage) amidst the demanding work and passed the remaining Part I technical subjects during the COVID shutdown. I guess that the uncertainty of the pandemic also reminded me about survival models and the irrationality of the financial markets – and that it is never too late to become an Actuary.

Jessica Chen

Like many students in their final years of high school, when it came to deciding what it is that I wanted to pursue I was drawing a blank. All I knew was that I wanted to choose a career path that showcased how mathematics can be applied in our everyday lives and that started me on the Bachelor of Actuarial Studies degree at UNSW. 

I have had many opportunities to explore the skills I was developing throughout my degree and I have even applied these skills outside of the traditional actuarial setting.

In my third year, I took on a cadetship at EY, learning about how automation played a crucial role in transforming the area of taxation. In my fourth year, I interned at Quantium where I was exposed to the data analytics space and the huge potential it has in driving change. These experiences inspired me to become an actuarial professional that focused on innovation.

After I finished up at university, I started at IAG as a Pricing Graduate. It was the perfect opportunity to deep dive into what it truly means to be an actuary as it opened me up to the world of workers compensation. I am very grateful for the experience I had with IAG, which I have carried with me to my current role as an actuarial consultant at Taylor Fry.

It has been rewarding work as, recalling my initial motivations from high school, I am now applying my passion to solve issues for the broader community.

Fu Yuan Tan

To deal with uncertainties in life is an inevitable challenge for everyone in this fast-changing world. The combination of mathematics, economics and finance in actuarial science has been proven to be one of the most effective weapons to tackle and minimise uncertainties. This has prompted me to pursue a degree in actuarial studies. 

After completing Year 12 in Malaysia, I accepted the offer from University of Melbourne and started my actuarial journey in Australia. Graduating from the honours program in 2019, I have obtained full exemption in both Part 1 and Part 2 exams. 

Like many actuarial graduates, I began my first full time role in the insurance industry with MLC Life.

Working on the group insurance pricing, I not only had the chance to be involved in many new business tenders and rerates for existing schemes, but I also worked closely with reinsurers and captive providers to facilitate the pricing process. 

Recently, I have had the opportunity to work in valuation and capital and decided to move to RGA Australia. In this role, I could learn about both US GAAP and MoS reporting when performing our monthly valuations. 

One of the most challenging things for actuarial graduates is studying while working. After many years of study, it has almost come to the end and hopefully I can obtain my Fellowship qualification soon.

Nikki Cornwell

I am an Actuary undertaking research. When I started my Bachelor of Actuarial Science at Bond University in 2016, research was far from where I thought my actuarial career would take me. Yet this serendipitous turn is one I am thoroughly enjoying.

With a strong drive to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of decision-making, I steered my studies toward the emerging actuarial pathway of data analytics by majoring in big data and finance.

At the conclusion of Part I, I completed a Vacationer Program with KPMG’s Risk, Strategy and Technology consulting practice. This was a valuable practical introduction to my Part II studies, which I completed through Honours.

Fortunate to be offered a graduate role with KPMG in 2019, I gained exposure to the challenges that organisations are facing in managing risks. In conversations with colleagues and clients, there was often an underlying desire to leverage data for risk management, although a lack of know-how.

Here there was a complex problem that:

  • had industry relevance;

  • intersected my skills and knowledge in data analytics and risk management; and

  • my network of academic and industry experts all supported.

Most importantly, it was a problem I am excited about.

In collaboration with KPMG, I am now completing my PhD at Bond University on how we can most effectively use data and analytics tools to manage operational risks.

I am incredibly grateful for the support I have received for my research. I encourage all up-and-coming Actuaries to think big and share your ideas with others. You never know what small spark will light up a path of opportunities.

Kushal Mithal

The choice of pursuing a career as an actuary has afforded me the opportunity to learn from and work alongside brilliant professionals on meaningful projects. Two aspects of our profession that have stood out are the versatility of the actuarial skillset and the great group of people that I’ve met along the way.

Why did I decide to take this journey? Like many of us, I was particularly fond of the maths and business courses that I took through high school and wanted to continue to delve deeper into these at uni.

Hence, I decided to pursue actuarial studies at the undergraduate level at the University of Melbourne. I enjoyed the course (even more so after the first-year generic commerce subjects were out of the way) and followed that up with a Masters at ANU, graduating in 2016.

After a short stint in life insurance as a graduate, I joined Taylor Fry, an analytics and actuarial consultancy. At Taylor Fry, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, including data analytics, modelling for government agencies, and of course traditional actuarial work.

I wasn’t fully cognisant of how widely transferrable the actuarial skillset was when making the decision to pursue actuarial studies as a final-year high school student.

However, I quickly came to appreciate this versatility once I started working. It has also broadened the network of professionals I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

I have found a forward-looking approach comes quite naturally to actuaries. Even so, I’ve been particularly inspired by my colleagues and peers’ dedication to keep learning and their enthusiasm to collaborate and solve new problems together. My actuarial journey so far has been stimulating and rewarding, and I’m excited by the opportunities for our profession that lie ahead.

Catch up on more ‘I am an Actuary’ profiles.

CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.